In a blog post earlier this week, while supporting the peaceful protests for George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, I criticized the random rioting and looting. My reasoning was that these don’t really attack the real problems or perpetrators, that they hurt innocent people such as minority business owners and neighborhoods, and that they lack any kind of strategy other than hoping the threat of violence would cause change. With that said, I do (a little reluctantly because I still believe in doing things legally where possible) support the toppling of Confederate statues. I’ve watched protestors toppling these on the news this week, and contrary to random rioting, this sends a directed and powerful message. These symbols of the past no longer serve our country and it’s time to get rid of them. The inclusion of these statues at city halls and seats of government in the South has been challenged before, and frankly most of these city and state governments have dragged their feet to actually remove them. Two days ago, a statue was toppled in a city adjacent to my own, and this morning the Confederate statue in my own city was removed with cranes by our own city government. Another nearby city announced official removal in early July.
For those cities removing these statues peaceably, I personally believe they should go to graveyards where Confederate soldiers have been laid to rest. This allows for respecting the Confederate dead (even if we don’t agree with their cause), allows for these statues to remain historical reminders of the past (those who don’t learn the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them), and also symbolically marks their significance to our daily lives as dead and buried. For those cities who refuse to remove these statues from government places, and where they aren’t toppled in protests, I heard someone suggest that counter monuments – perhaps memorializing Northern deaths or those victimized by slavery – would allow for counterpointing the Confederate statues with powerful teaching moments.
I was happy to hear that NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from their races this week. That was a good step. I personally view the Confederate flag as a flag of treason against our country and a lost Civil War for the South. It has also been a rallying flag for racists and white nationalists. While many liberals share this view with me, it is actually more complicated than that. I grew up in a rural Southern town and still have family and friends in that area. The thing is that not everyone rallies around the Confederate flag out of hate or prejudice (even if that is the legacy of that flag). A number of people in the South view the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern heritage and not as a symbol of hate. It is entrenched as a symbol of Southern pride for many rural Southerners. Trying to convince many of them that it is a symbol of racism and hate, will just cause many to double down in their own positions. What I really believe they need is a new flag to symbolize their heritage – something they can fly from the back of their pickup trucks and wave at NASCAR races – because gods know they like to do that kind of thing.
Lastly, I wanted to address things I’ve been hearing these past few weeks about defunding or even abolishing the police. I’ve not read much on what this would entail, so these are only my initial thoughts. My ideas might change if I see a really good plan. I personally believe there is much reform that should be done with police departments and even some of the laws they enforce. I don’t believe every cop is a bad cop. Just an aside – my own father was a policeman, though he retired due to Vietnam related disabilities when I was young. He and my mother taught me not to judge people by the color of their skin. And while I can’t say for sure what he’d be doing in the current situation, I do believe that he would be standing the lines for law and order but would also criticize the cop who killed George Floyd. I personally believe there is much room for reform in the police department – a return to the ethic of being peace officers to protect and serve their communities; a reversal of militarization of police forces; ongoing sensitivity training for a number of disenfranchised communities – African-Americans, LGBTQ folks, and many others; sensitivity training for domestic violence situations; accountability and intervention when it comes to bad cops; and perhaps increased participation in the communities they serve (so neither the community members nor the police are faceless others). I believe it would be a good thing to put some money from police budgets (starting with the expensive military gear) toward the communities themselves. I also believe that some laws and policies should be rethought or abolished – such as racial profiling; chokeholds; entry to arrest without knocking or announcing; and victimless crimes such as recreational drug use and sex work.
I do not believe police departments should be totally abolished — at least not unless there’s something comparable or better to replace them. There are many situations in daily life that require a consensus on law and order and someone to intervene – whether this be police or someone else. There are issues of theft, robberies, break-ins, domestic violence, escalated disagreements between people, gang violence, organized crime, and other concerns requiring immediate or ongoing intervention from someone. There are also little things that protect lives or an orderly way of life – someone to enforce speed limits and traffic laws. The street on the way to work is not a NASCAR raceway and there are some places you shouldn’t U-turn. People ignore these things now with the threat of getting a ticket. What will they do without someone to enforce necessary rules and laws? While I like to look for the best in people, I don’t trust all people to follow rules and laws, especially in the absence of enforcement. Many laws are in place to protect our daily lives from chaos and to protect us from those who would do harm. Yes, there are also many laws that should be reformed or abolished, but not all of them. If we abolish the police totally, I see us descending into anarchy or some kind of wild west lawlessness. In such a society, without someone to intervene, might would make right and I suspect gun nuts will be stocking up on guns and shooting anyone they see as a threat. This is already happening among the current rioting and looting.
Anyway, those are my thoughts.
Not long ago, I posted a three-part blog article titled “Can’t We All Get Along.” I pointed out the division in this country, within the Democratic Party, and even within Doctor Who Fandom. I had hoped to encourage folks to find common ground and not to be so polarized. Early last week, in the midst of the George Floyd protests, I took a break from posting cat videos and inspirational music videos on Facebook to pose the question – “Can’t we all agree on some common ground?” I asked the Liberals on my friend’s list (including folks from college, gatherings, and folks that I hang out with regularly) couldn’t we agree that rioting and looting are bad, even if the anger behind them is justified, and especially in light of the fact that most of the businesses being hit are small independent businesses already hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic. I pointed out to the Conservatives on my friends list (mostly family and folks from high school) that they’d be angry if the shoe were on the other foot and a white man had been killed in such a cruel way by a Black man. I also pointed out that they needed to get their story straight on protests. A few years ago, they were calling non-violent protesters against Trump, the Dakota pipeline, and other causes criminals, and calling for them to be arrested. Then a few weeks ago they all started showing up at state capitals with guns to protest stay-at-home orders. Now they’re condemning protests again. I asked them all to recognize our common humanity and that there are bad apples on both sides of the political spectrum, but there are also folks with compassion and humanity on both sides.
I was actually quite surprised by those who responded – three Liberals and two Conservatives – so more or less equal numbers. My post was mostly meant for Conservatives with a feigned slap on the hand to Liberals who I thought would agree that non-violent protest was for the best.
In the Conservative camp, one Conservative who is frequently spouting support for Trump, conspiracy theories and the like, responded quite rationally that “No, we can’t agree, but that disagreement doesn’t have to be the line in the sand that many people make it.” Another Conservative suggested that all the rioters and looters should be shot for breaking the law and that the authorities really have no other choice than to shoot these folks to bring back law and order. I pointed out that these are U.S. citizens and that there are all sorts of non-lethal tools and tactics in place for domestic disturbances. He did later concede that he thought there was no excuse for the police officer who killed Floyd and he hopes the guy gets the death penalty. At least he was consistent in his belief that shooting and killing people is the solution to all life’s big problems.
The Liberal camp shocked and dismayed me a little bit. At least I expected the shoot first, solve problems later from the Conservatives. After three years of Liberals staging non-violent protests against Trump and stressing the importance of non-violence in other protests and causes, it bothered me to see one of my Liberal friends suggesting that we should “Riot on!” Another suggested non-violence was a Pollyanna concept and that rioting and rebellion are necessary for liberty. Yet another sent a link to arguments on “How to respond to ‘riots never solve anything!’” This was after I suggested that non-violent protest should be encouraged but rioting and looting not so much.
I see so much of each other in all this. Perhaps if we can’t agree to aspire to the best in humanity, we can all at least agree to aspire to the worst. While my earlier Facebook post was meant more for the Conservatives, this blog post is aimed squarely at Liberals because I still believe there’s hope, compassion, and reason within you despite whatever anger you may be feeling at this point. While I still consider myself Liberal, due to recent polarizations both in our country and within the Democratic Party I find myself more middle of the road than I used to be. For parts of this article, I’m still going to say “we” and “us” even though “we” and “us” in the Liberal camp is more divided than ever before.
After criticizing Conservatives only a few weeks ago for coming out to protest the Covid-19 stay-at-home orders with their guns and general talks of stoking another American Civil War (violent, if necessary), I cannot in good conscience look the other way when our own side comes out (during a pandemic, I might add) stoking talks of violent revolution. While I believe, wholeheartedly, that the non-violent protests on behalf of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter are a good and necessary thing (and also that protestors should continue wearing masks and social distancing), it would be hypocritical of me to condemn violence and threats of violence by Conservatives only to rally for riots, looting, and violence to advance a cause (any cause) that I as a Liberal hold dear.
Might doesn’t make right. Right makes right (even if the results aren’t always immediate). That includes right action. Right action includes action (as well at thoughts and intentions) consistent with the ethics you believe yourself and that you believe the other side should follow. Right action includes making sure that any action, protest, or even war is directed at the right enemies, governments, departments, laws, policies, or systems, and not just random people or organizations who may or may not already be on your side (or might be persuaded to join your cause provided you don’t make enemies of them). In war, most folks consider it ethical to drop bombs on strategic military bases but not on civilian communities, schools, and hospitals. Right action doesn’t necessarily mean to be “Pollyanna”, complacent, or even lawful. Rosa Parks breaking the law prohibiting Black folks from sitting at the front of a bus is an example of a right action that wasn’t naïve, complacent, or legal at the time. It was both a powerful statement and non-violent.
What bothers me about the rioting, looting, and protests, is that they seem more random and less directed at the people, organizations, and systems that led to this situation in the first place. They lack any kind of strategy or goal other than maybe the threat of violence will cause folks to side with you out of fear of more rioting. In fact, a study of Civil Rights protests by political scientist Omar Wasow argues that peaceful protests during the 1960s actually swayed white people toward voting for Democrats, whereas violent protests brought backlash and swayed white voters in the direction “law and order” Republican candidates (http://www.omarwasow.com/). Isn’t law and order what we hear Republicans and Conservatives calling for in all this? Law and order, even if it means killing looters and rioters? I’ve seen stories about a number of small businesses hit with looting (many of them small Black, minority, or immigrant owned businesses). There was an African American woman on YouTube who went viral for shouting at rioters and looters (mostly white college students) for making her neighborhood unsafe. She shouted about the how people couldn’t safely get to their jobs or to get groceries, and how the homeless people in the neighborhood were affected too. One young Black male protestor interviewed for the PBS News Hour last week, pointed out all the pallets of bricks left in neighborhoods near protest sites and claimed that it looked like “a trap” to incite violence. From what I’ve seen across various media, most of the protesters on the front lines are adamant that the protests remain peaceful and non-violent. Among all this we are also putting more Black lives at risk – whether from corrupt cops looking for an excuse to act out, from angry gun nuts protecting their businesses by shooting to kill, or from the possibility of a surge of Coronavirus cases in an already vulnerable community.
While I agree with the non-violent protests and the support for Black Lives Matter, there is another bigger issue that I’ve taken on in recent years – that is the overall division our country, communities, and political parties have fallen into. While the divisions were there already, the 2016 election, the divisive rhetoric of Trump and his enablers, Russian bots, and the like have furthered these divisions. In this day and age it is easy to dehumanize those we don’t agree with. Trump dehumanizes people he doesn’t agree with on a daily basis by calling them “thugs”, “criminals”, and so on. The policeman who killed George Floyd dehumanized Black people. The police we see acting out badly in the news this past week or two have dehumanized the protestors. For our part, many of us have dehumanized Republicans and Conservatives on the whole, even though many have left the party or spoken out against Trump and his abuses. A Republican group called the Lincoln Project is even actively advertising against Trump. We all have Conservative friends, co-workers, and family members. In this situation, we have also dehumanized all policemen for the actions of some bad actors. We’ve dehumanized the real people living and working in neighborhoods affected by rioting and looting in their neighborhoods because it doesn’t fit our agenda or narrative. As someone once said, the best way to defeat an enemy is to make that enemy a friend or an ally. Perhaps it’s naïve to believe that we are all human, that there are some common ethics that we can all agree to, or that we can change minds through discussion and debate rather than threat of violence.
Despite all the bad stories from the front lines of things like continued police abuse of protesters and reporters, looters being shot and killed by store owners, and trucks plowing through crowds, I’ve been heartened by all the good stories out there this past couple of weeks too. Many police officers lay down their arms and joined the peaceful protests — some even “taking a knee.” Non-violent protestors protected community businesses from looters. One police officer separated from his troop, was protected from the angry mobs by other protestors. There are people of all colors, ages, creeds, and backgrounds out protesting Floyd’s death and supporting Black Lives. The events aren’t even limited to the United States.
During different times, I’d be out there joining in the peaceful protests. Given the current pandemic, I’ve been practicing social distancing and social isolation to protect myself and others from a potentially deadly disease that medical experts don’t yet know enough about. Despite this, I was proud to see on Facebook just the other day that my youngest niece, not long out of high school and who lives in a rural conservative area of Virginia, has been out joining the non-violent protests in her area. She has been sharing her own beliefs, experiences, and photos despite receiving flack for doing so.
I’ll end this post with three quotes on non-violence from Martin Luther King, Jr.
“In spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.”
“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”
“Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”
Mel has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and is a seasoned LGBTQ community activist. To find out more, please visit his website: www.melmystery.com
I had meant to wrap up this thread a few weeks ago, but got sidetracked by all the Corona Virus business. I hope everyone is staying safe out there!
This is a continuation of Can’t We All Just Get Along? Part 2
To all the Democratic political folks out there, this section is for you.
I’m going to “Vote Blue No Matter Who” come November and I hope you will too. I would vote for a rock if it would get Trump and his nastiness out of the White House. All you Bernie supporters out there who choose not to vote in the 2016 election because you were sore that Sanders didn’t get the Democratic ticket or because you hated Hillary — I blame you all for the last three and a half years we’ve had to endure. Your vote for the Democrat on the Presidential ticket could have swayed the election. If we’ve learned anything in the time since the last election, it’s not that the lesser of two evils is still evil. It’s that the lesser of two evils is still less evil than what we’ve got. (Just for fun – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SAisWFutbw ). Also, if you don’t vote in the Primaries, then you have no room to complain if the Democratic candidate isn’t Sanders. If you don’t vote in the November election, then you have no room to complain if we get another four years of Trump. If Bernie wins the ticket, I’m going to vote for him. If Biden wins the ticket, I’m going to vote for him. If it turns out to be someone else come November, I’m going to vote for him or her.
“The lesser of two evils is still less evil than what we’ve got.”
I suppose I should also wrap up the Doctor Who thread, so this last section is for all the Doctor Who fans, haters, and writers.
I’ve not seen the latest season since I cut the cable cord, but plan to once it’s available on one of my streaming services or on DVD. I have seen a lot of spoilers and lots of hater headlines. I have to admit that my first reactions to both the new Master and the Ruth Doctor were WTF. Neither immediately conformed to my idea of who the Master or the Doctor is and has been. After over 50 years of white male Doctors and white mostly male Masters, a Master of color and a Black female Doctor was a bit of a shock, but I quickly got over that. The ideal Masters to me will always be the Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley Masters. The clips I’ve seen of the new Master show that he has all the evil and treachery you’d expect from the Master, and I think I kind of like his sense of style too. The clips of the Ruth Doctor that I’ve seen show her to be the strong idealist that is the core of Doctor Who, so while I’ve not seen her in action, I think I might actually like her. I still have some concerns with gender and race swapping iconic characters with long histories (see my previous post “When the Doctor was Me” ), but Doctor Who is one of those weird possible exceptions because of the whole point of regeneration is that the Doctor changes into another person each time around.
My biggest problem with the way the new Doctor Who series is doing this is that they are doing this too fast and too in your face and that’s causing backlash, even from folks who want to give the new series a chance. They seem to be doing the same thing with Doctor Who canon and also the “wokeness” factor. Doctor Who has always largely been liberal and left leaning. The Doctor mostly advocates against guns and violence and for using one’s mind to solve problems. Some classic episodes had the Doctor taking down evil corporations that exploit people (such as the 4th Doctor episode “The Sun Makers”). There have been multiple story lines where the Doctor took down authoritarian leaders. There have been many episodes where the Doctor organized people to stand up to oppression. The thing about these stories is that they weren’t necessarily preachy or in your face about the values they professed (as many are complaining about the show now). It was subtle and built into the story lines. You empathized with the underdog, with the exploited, and with the downtrodden because of good story lines. You also had the Doctor as an example of someone doing good wherever he went.
This might be a good place to remind everyone that the diversity in the new series of Doctor Who isn’t all about me as a middle-aged white guy. One of the things I noticed recently when I went to a sci-fi convention that I go to most every year were all the women dressed up as the Jodie Whittaker Doctor. It was nice to see that female Doctor Who fans finally had a Doctor to cosplay. After the latest season, Black female fans also have a Doctor to cosplay, and I hope I see some at the con next year. The only other Doctor’s I saw this year were a few David Tenant Doctors (plus I was dressed as the 7th Doctor). There’s usually at least one 4th Doctor and a few 11th Doctors running around, but they were oddly missing this year. The Klingons were oddly missing this year too.
Being woke is (or at least should be) about learning to live and let live. If you’re using your “wokeness” to further division or to fuel your hate for some other group of people, I’m not sure you’re actually that woke. It’s not all about you. Being woke is loving and supporting our neighbors of all backgrounds even if we don’t totally understand them. It’s realizing that we all have different life experiences and challenges that bring us to where we are now. Most of us have room to grow, and others are seemingly lost causes.
In society, we are primed to fear and distrust the “other” – those who aren’t like us or who don’t belong to our tribe. Ultimately, as the saying goes, “Haters are gonna hate.” Whether it be that friend from high school hating on the Trans folk, the receptionist at the dentist office hating on Democrats, Bernie supporters hating on the establishment Democrats (and vice-versa), Lesbian Feminist Separatists and Trans folks hating on “men”, or old school Doctor Who fans hating on the new series.
Can’t we all just get along?
In my last post, I talked about various examples of division. While I think differences across the political spectrum (such as Democrats vs. Republicans) are harder to remedy, we also seem to have major differences among those mostly on the same side (left-leaning Democrats vs. centrist Democrats, or the various “factions” within the LGBTQ community). We are so polarized right now that even subtle differences elicit strong reaction, division, and even hate.
In the examples given in the last post, I really don’t see much reconciliation with the Transphobic high school friend or the Trump supporting receptionist at the dentist office. I think our world views and life experiences are too different. Nothing I say is likely to change their minds. It’s not really worth adding the stress of argument to my already super stressed life. Sure, I could unfriend the high school friend. I grew up in a rural backwoods area of Virginia, so his comments are likely shared by a host of other high school friends. If push comes to shove, I could always delete them all too. I could change dentist offices or make a complaint. Maybe I will do these things. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I can hope that these people will glean some bit of enlightenment by seeing me and the things I say and post to my own page. Direct confrontation only leads to direct confrontation back and folks become entrenched even more in their own beliefs.
What I want to talk about and explore today is not the division across party lines, but all the divisions among folks who are mostly on the same side. Maybe we don’t agree on everything. Just because we are in different lanes doesn’t mean we have to be enemies. We can actually be allies and support each other, but still go off and do our own things. It’s an extremist and inflexible view to say that we can’t.
“Maybe we don’t agree on everything. Just because we are in different lanes doesn’t mean we have to be enemies.”
Since my college activist days, I have never considered myself an assimilationist. I believe we live in a pluralistic society. I think it is okay for us to have differing interests, cultures, ideologies, groups and so on. We can do this and still come together as allies on things that matter to us all. I don’t think everyone has to be exactly the same or to have exactly the same ideals and goals. I remember the days when the LGBTQ community (usually led by white middle-class gay men) put forth calls for diversity back in the 1990s. Back then “diversity” really meant including women and people of color who held white middle-class male values. These groups were often gentrified and didn’t really address the issues of women, people of color, or other groups of people. It’s a nice ideal for a utopia, but it really wasn’t a diversity of ideas or backgrounds. I supported the rights of Lesbians and women to form groups and events of their own. I also supported the rights of gay men to form men’s groups and events. I supported the sovereignty of African American LGBTQ groups. I supported the rights of LGBTQ folks not to follow the dictates of heterosexual society, as well as the rights of those who wanted to get married and live in the idealized house with white picket fences. I still support the notion of a pluralistic world rather than a monolith where everyone looks and thinks the same. Such monoliths breed dogma, as well as stigma to those who dare to be different. Isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid? I support a world where differences are celebrated, not denigrated. In a pluralistic society, there are niche groups, ideologies, and events; but there are also times when we form alliances and come together toward a common goal.
“Such monoliths breed dogma, as well as stigma to those who dare to be different. Isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid?”
I think our world is moving even more in the direction of pluralism and niches. Population increases and the capacity for very specific niche groups on the internet is helping to facilitate this. The weird thing is that the more niche and pluralistic we become, the more we seem to want the rest of the world to reflect our world view. We all live in our bubble and expect the real world to conform to our idea of an ideal world. We want every group, every event, and every television character to reflect who we are and what we believe. We have no patience that our goals take time, or that sometimes we have to make compromises.
What most folks don’t realize is that not everything is about “you”, nor does it have to be. My experience doesn’t invalidate yours. You’ve dealt with your unique challenges and I’ve dealt with mine. We’ve all come into this world with our own unique struggles and unique life paths.
“What most folks don’t realize is that not everything is about “you”, nor does it have to be. My experience doesn’t invalidate yours.”
The next section is dedicated to the women and the Trans folks who feel that men’s groups and identities somehow threaten them. This is a snippet of my own unique life path.
As a gay man growing up in the 1980s in a Christian household and Christianized society, I struggled to come out both to myself and to others. While I realized I was gay in high school, I really didn’t come out until college. I’ve had friendships end for coming out as gay. I’ve experienced harassment for being out and gay. I once even had my life threatened by a group of men holding tire irons in a parking lot (http://www.melmystery.com/index.php/about-mel/past-projects-involvements ) . In college, my car was vandalized because I had a pink triangle bumper sticker. I feel like subtle job discrimination in my early career probably kept me from having a better job and finances than I do now. I feel like as a gay man that I’ve had to work harder and do more to prove my worth at both work and in the world.
As a gay man, I also actually like masculinity (contrary to popular belief not all masculinity is toxic) and I like the company of other men. Throughout my life I have had to make a concentrated effort to be among other men. In childhood I lived out in a rural area without many other children around and I always yearned for a male best friend. Things got a little better from middle school onward, but the few close male friendships I formed were tenuous at best. Before I came out (and when I thought I had to like girls), I was always drawn to the masculinity of tomboy types. In my early teens, I thought I had a crush on Jo from Facts of Life (you know the one who wore the leather jacket and drove a motorcycle); and my favorite Doctor Who companion was the tough and tomboyish Ace. My point is that I’m naturally drawn to masculinity for whatever reason. In college, I got along better with the Lesbians than I did with other gay men. I’ve wondered if this were possibly because they were more masculine than my gay male peers. I know it’s a stereotype, but it was also true to some extent. There’s also this idea that gay men distrust other men, so maybe that was at play too. (I touched on this topic of gay men distrusting other men in one of my earlier podcasts, I believe it was in my review of the book “Gay Warrior” in Episode 5 — http://melmystery.podbean.com/ )
As a gay man, I also actually like masculinity (contrary to popular belief not all masculinity is toxic) and I like the company of other men.
As I got past college, my career has been in largely female dominated fields (education and libraries). When I first became involved in Pagan men’s groups in the early 2000s, it was very liberating for me to befriend and hang out with other men of all sexual orientations. Experiences and feelings of brotherhood with other men was something largely lacking in my life. Most were straight, but they were still very accepting. When I attended Coph Nia (a now defunct Pagan men’s spiritual gathering) in 2014 and 2015, I felt like I’d finally found my people. These people were gay men who are Pagan, countercultural and activist inclined, and welcoming rather than judgmental of other gay men. Shortly after I found them, the event ended.
That is my truth and my reality. As I said, it doesn’t invalidate your experiences or make us enemies. I support equality and justice and fairness for all, not just for gay men. I’ve done much over the years to advocate for all sorts of disenfranchised groups, not just my own.
Relatively recently, I ran an online “alternative” paper for a while. I tried opening it to LGBTQ folks across the spectrum as well as to Pagans, Polyamorists, and all sorts of folks living other “alternative” lifestyles. I tried to make it everything for everybody. I spread myself thin trying to make sure everyone was represented and happy, and very few people across any of that spectrum stepped up to write articles or to help even the load. I do appreciate the Trans folks, women, and People of Color who did help (notice again the relative lack of men and gay men involved in this endeavor). Ultimately, I realized that my path is niche, and that niche is easier to manage. I’m still involved in orchestrating an annual “Alternative” Pride Picnic that came out of the alternative paper. That event does draw a heavy Trans and Lesbian presence. As already mentioned, and as with everything else I involve myself in, there are generally very few men involved — straight or gay. This perpetuates my need to make a concentrated effort to be among other men.
I do support women’s issues and events. I marched in our local women’s march in 2017. In 2018, I also sat through several city council meetings in support of our local Lesbian bar that was being closed due to gentrification of its neighborhood. I also periodically attend our local Transgender Days of Visibility and Transgender Days of Remembrance. Unlike many of the haters I find on the internet, I don’t make these events all about me or my demographic group. I don’t attend the women’s events trying to fight the matriarchy or shouting that men’s rights matter too. I don’t go to the Transgender Day of Remembrance asking why they aren’t honoring Matthew Shepard who was killed for being gay (not Trans). I don’t make an *ss of myself asking why they are being exclusionary for not including him or other gay and Lesbian folks who may have died to homophobia. These events aren’t about me or my specific demographic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t or don’t show my support. I also know that sometimes I need to step back or out of the picture altogether. It’s not always about me. In a Pagan setting a few years ago, I was considering going to an OBOD Druid event. I consider myself a Druid, but I’m not an OBOD Druid. I ultimately decided not to go because it looked like they had all sorts of initiation rituals and other private OBOD events going on. Unlike many of the “woke” people on the internet calling for total inclusion at all events, I didn’t send them a nastygram asking them why other types of Druids weren’t represented (let alone Wiccans, Witches, or other Pagans). I realized this event, no matter how interesting, wasn’t about me and moved on.
In the last post, I mentioned the Female-to-Male Trans person who attended our men’s retreat last spring. He was the first Trans person to attend one of our events, and this was also his very first men’s event since his operation. He proudly went shirtless at our event and you could still see the fresh scars from his breast reduction surgery. He was welcomed with open arms and at our main ritual he broke down with emotion because it was such a powerful experience for him to be welcomed into a brotherhood of men. Our men’s events aren’t necessarily all-inclusive, but they are not meant to be exclusive either. A Male-to-Female Trans person probably wouldn’t enjoy our men’s retreats, though perhaps might gain something if welcomed into a sisterhood of women. To call our men’s event Trans-exclusionary might fit someone’s narrative or maybe their own hatred or distrust of men and masculinity, but that is a prejudicial judgement that doesn’t fit with actual reality.
I know some LGBTQ folks out there want to overthrow the idea of gender altogether. I don’t think that’s the answer. I think the answer is respecting our differences whether they be gender or other factors. That’s not something we’re particularly good at in this day and age. I think many Trans folks are just as attached to their inherent (not birth) gender as many cisgender folks are. As evidenced in the story above, I believe that gendered events can be very powerful and affirming to at least some Trans folks. The real problem is when we start suggesting that someone is something less because of their gender identity – whatever that may be.
Part 3 of this post will be coming out later this week.
It’s been a weirdly divisive week across the board. I first noticed it on Monday when a high school friend on Facebook posted a transphobic article on his page trying to link bathroom rapes to Trans folks. The article made me really angry. I started to write a response, but then stopped myself because these things never end well. Experience has shown me that nothing I say will change closed minds and that if I were to respond then all the other transphobic trolls on his page would come out and attack me in mass. I have friends who are Trans and I worried that by not responding I was letting them down, but I also felt like responding would be a metaphoric suicide mission. With everything else going on in my life this week, I really didn’t have the time for a Facebook showdown anyway.
Then I went in for a dentist appointment on Tuesday. Yes. It was Super Tuesday and that’s probably what got the receptionist there talking about politics. She’s a Trump supporter and has apparently drunk the Trump and Fox News Cool-Aid. Since my dentist was running behind with another patient, the receptionist felt the need to use the waiting time to talk about how senile Biden is — even though everything she said could just as easily applied to Trump. I’m honestly not sure Biden isn’t senile, so I just laughed nervously (my defense mechanism) trying to diffuse the situation rather than start an argument. She went on to insist that Michele Obama is actually a man. She showed me a Fox News clip on her phone as ‘proof.” I continued to laugh nervously while changing the subject to recent renovations I’ve had done to my house (all the while debating in my head the need to change dentist offices).
Wednesday, there was all the Democratic Primary fallout. The Bernie supporters were blaming the establishment Democrats for Sanders’ less than stellar wins. Primary participation was actually up this year showing fervor among the Democrats, but youth participation in the Primaries was down and the youth are Sanders’ biggest base. In an online spiritual forum that I frequent, one young Bernie supporter was lashing out at Biden supporters and Boomers. Bernie supporters elsewhere were blaming Black voters for not having enough information about Biden’s record because they overwhelmingly supported Biden over Bernie. And then, of course, there was the response article from Black Democratic voters calling out Bernie’s white liberal base for not voting “the way outraged, left-leaning white liberals wanted.” (https://www.theroot.com/an-open-letter-to-white-liberals-blaming-low-informatio-1842100419 )
As for my own Primary choices. I was all in for Mayor Pete before he dropped out of the race. Before he did, I saw posts on Facebook from gay men bashing him and saying he looked like a “rat” in the face. These were gay men who should have been excited about a gay presidential candidate even if he wasn’t their candidate of choice. I personally admired Pete’s moderate approach, his calmness in the debates, and how well-spoken he is. Yeah, the Christian thing bothered me a little bit, but I also saw someone who could take on evangelicals on their own turf and maybe change their minds about gay people with his seemingly squeaky-clean image. With Pete out of the race before Super Tuesday, I was sure going into the polls that I was going to vote for Biden since I believe we need a moderate in office to heal the divisions in our country. I’m proud to say that when I got to the polls I voted for Warren, even if she didn’t win and dropped out of the race on Thursday. She was my second choice. As a Virgo, I really liked that she had plans for everything and I also liked her spunk. She wasn’t as divisive a Bernie or as boring as Biden.
On Thursday, I decided take a break from politics to post an announcement across several (mostly gay Pagan men’s) Facebook groups about two upcoming Pagan men’s retreats I’m involved with – Brotherhood by the Bog Pagan Men’s Retreat and the Arcadia Gathering for Queer Pagan Men. (http://www.olympuscampgroundresort.com/ – both events are listed under the “Events” tab). In the past, the idea of men’s groups and retreats sometimes elicited backlash from women (who ironically totally supported women-only groups and Goddess retreats). In today’s woke world, such events are being lambasted as Trans-exclusionary. And in one group I posted in, a solitary member felt the need to label our events as such and to call all men’s events “rubbish” with the same disgust for men and men’s groups seen from Lesbian Feminist separatists in an earlier time. Never mind that it says all over the site that while the focus is on Pagan men, we welcome anyone who feels they would benefit from attending including folks of all sexual orientations, Trans folks, and even women. Never mind that last year, we welcomed our first female-to-male Trans man to one of our retreats. Having just had his surgery, attending a men’s event and being welcomed into a group of men was a profound and emotional experience for him (more on that in my next post or the one after that if this turns out to be a three part article). We also welcomed a masculine identified straight woman to the same event.
On Friday morning, I read an article about Elizabeth Warren’s interview on Rachel Maddow from Thursday night. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/03/06/warren-sanders-maddow-bullying/) In the article, Warren “calls out Sanders for ‘organized nastiness’ and ‘bullying’ by his supporters.” She claimed that some of Bernie’s followers sink to the same level as many of Trump’s supporters including questionable political tactics and online bullying. In the article, Warren advocates that “Democrats cannot ‘follow that same kind of politics of division that Donald Trump follows.” On Trump she claims, “He draws strength from tearing people apart, from demonizing people.”
That same demonization is going on not just across political divides (like the high school friend on Facebook or the receptionist at the dentist office), but within the Democratic Party itself (leftists vs. centrists, young vs. old, Black vs. white) and even within the LGBTQ community (Lesbian Feminist Separatists vs. men, Trans folks vs. cisgender gay men).
In my down time, I’ve been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching pick-a-card Tarot readings and listening to 80s music from my youth. This helps me cope with the stress in my personal life and the stress and division coming from the world at large. As I scroll through the videos, I see all the haters hating on the latest season of Doctor Who. They are usually complaining about the in-your-face “wokeness” of the latest series along with the diverse choice of cast members. Seeing that most of videos are from middle aged white men, I just roll my eyes. Sure I’m a middle aged white man myself, but I’m at least trying to give the series the benefit of the doubt. Since I cut the cable cord last spring, I can’t comment on the quality of the current season but from the spoilers I’ve read it does appear that the show is also riddled with bad writing and major changes to the show’s 50 year canon that could be disturbing to long-time fans.
I come to the end of today’s post but hope to pick up the threads with another post in a few days. The upcoming post will be a deeper exploration of these divisions and what it all might mean in a pluralistic society such as ours.
Part 2 coming soon…
My latest podcast episode is now online.
This is a continuation of the “conspiracy” episode. Part one came out in January. In this episode, I’ll be talking more about the Web Bot and possible biases in the algorithm. I’ll be exploring why conspiracy theorists are so obsessed with pedophilia. And I’ll be explaining my own system for evaluating conspiracy theories.
You can listen to this episode directly from my website (below) or through iTunes or Podbean.
Many Trump supporters who spent their entire lives never questioning their societal privilege are finally learning what it’s like to be an unpopular minority, and many are not handling it very well. Back last June, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant because of her role in the Trump Administration. She left gracefully, but then complained about the restaurant not treating her nicely. In January, following a confrontation between teens from a private boy’s high school and a Native American elder, one of the teens who was seen in viral videos wearing a MAGA hat is suing CNN for misrepresentation saying that he was falsely accused of escalating the situation when he was actually trying to “defuse” it. Earlier this month, a man in Arizona reported that the tire on his SUV was slashed because he had a MAGA hat in the window. Another Trump supporter was kicked out of a New York City restaurant for wearing a MAGA hat. It’s apparently gotten so bad for some of these people that there’s now an app where Trump supporters can find “safe spaces” free from liberals and where they can also bring their guns.
It’s really a misnomer to call these Trump supporters a “minority” since they have societal privilege and since their guy is in power in the White House, but that hasn’t stopped them from claiming “victimhood” and outrage for being treated the way real minorities are treated every day. There was a time when African Americans and other People of Color weren’t allowed in “white” restaurants, to go to “white” parks, or sit in “white” sections at the front of public transportation. And in recent years many conservatives have rallied around the “right” of cake shops and other businesses to deny service to LGBT individuals. There was a time when LGBT individuals had their names posted in newspapers after police raids on gay bars thus destroying their reputations, careers, and lives. A certain “faux” news network still makes its fame and fortune by misrepresenting marginalized communities – Muslims, People of Color, LGBT folks, immigrants, and so on. In college, my car was keyed because I was active and vocal in my campus LGBT group, and many others have had their cars or homes vandalized for being LGBT. LGBT teens have deservedly sought out safe spaces because of unaccepting parents and bullying peers.
If these aren’t enough to make the MAGA complaints at least seem like karma or poetic justice, other things that minorities deal with make these complaints seem just trivial. Just last week there was the mass shooting at a Mosque in New Zealand. In 2016, there was a mass shooting at the gay Latino Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In 2015, there was a mass shooting at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina. I really haven’t heard about any mass shootings at MAGA events or in conservative venues. In addition to these mass shootings, many minorities live in real fear of being targeted for being who they are. In 2017, there were at least 29 Transgender deaths due to violence against them. That number doesn’t include how many who suffered violent attacks and lived. Trans People of Color are especially prone to be victims of violence and hate crimes. Matthew Shepherd is just one of many gay folks attacked and even killed for being open about who they are. And, of course, suicide among LGBT teens is much higher than suicide among the general population.
Many minorities live in fear of violence, harassment, being denied service, being fired from their jobs, or being challenged for who they are or what they believe. Fear is often used as a tool to keep minorities in their place. Being in a place of fear is not something that most MAGA supporters are used to. While I believe there is some karma involved, and while I’m a big fan of poetic justice, I really don’t think we liberals should be slashing MAGA folks’ tires or escalating violence against them. For one thing, a crime is still a crime no matter who commits it, and for another, we really don’t need to be fueling the fires of their “victimhood” and indignation. One thing I’ve learned both through my college activism and because my Dad was a cop, is that you don’t really want to be the one to throw the first punch in an argument. The moment you throw the first punch, you become the attacker and you’re legally liable as such. It doesn’t really matter how much the other party provoked the attack or whether they started the argument. When we throw the first punch, it also just looks bad on us. As liberals, we promote diversity and non-violence, and we really need to walk the talk. At the same time, if you are attacked, I definitely support your right to fight back and defend yourself. Just don’t throw the first punch. Also be aware, that many professional conservative trolls are trained to provoke you to the point of violence, so they can make an incident of it – whether a legal incident, a viral social media incident, or a news media incident. Don’t fall into the trap.
I don’t support violence against MAGA supporters (unless it’s self-defense). And while I find their views distasteful, I do support their right to wear their red hats, sport conservative bumper stickers on their cars, and share their views on Facebook and their personal blogs. I think denying prominent Trump supporters service at restaurants and other businesses is more of a grey area. I definitely support calling out conservative politicians and those in the Trump White House for their views and complacency. It is their job to listen to citizens, even if they would rather hide or insulate themselves from those who disagree with them. What I also support is civil discourse and calling out individuals on their negative and harmful ideologies. You might be able to change the minds of at least some middle leaning folks. While you may not be able to change the hearts or minds of extremists, if they’re called out enough, perhaps they’ll at least think twice about being so vocal about their unpopular views.