Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Focus on the Family" Wants Gay Kids to Die...

In their latest and most gallingly ill-timed display of their own hatred and bigotry, the fundamentalist religious extremist group "Focus on the Family" has come out AGAINST pending legislation in Congress that would seek to address the problem of bullying in public schools.

According to Focus on the Family, LGBT groups use bullying prevention to promote their homosexual agenda, including the idea that homosexuality is normal. Focus on the Family education expert Candi Cushman said that the group is against bullying but that bullying prevention “is being hijacked by activists.” She claims that anti-bullying programs are gay activism in disguise and that these programs conceal their true purpose.


These people are insane bigots, They are so filled with hatred for people who don't share their sad twisted anti-American, anti-Constitutional world view, they would seek to stop a law that could help save kids lives.

As this...American equivalent of the  Taliban obsessed over protecting the bullying to death of Gay Kids, the news has been filled with story after story, of a Gay Teen somewhere in America who was bullied into taking his own life.


Carl JosephWalker-Hoover,11 of Springfield MA hanged himself.
Seth Walsh, 13, of Tehachapi CA, hanged himself.
Billy Lucas, 15, of Greensburg, Indiana, hanged himself.
Asher Brown, 13, of Houston, shot himself in the head.

And just this past week...  
Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood, NJ, 18 years old, jumped off the George Washington Bridge.    

All were victims of the type of lethal harassment that the absurdly mis-named Focus on the Family would seek to promote and protect.  These people are not Christians, they are vile  terrorists who rejoice at the death of American Kids.  
I truly believe that  when Candi Cushman, and Focus on the Family founder, James Dobson finally do come  face to face  with  the Christ they claim so loudly to follow;   He will say; "I do not know you."



Left Behind (from the Musical "Spring Awakening)

You fold his hands and smooth his tie, you gently lift his chin.
Were you really so blind, and unkind to him?
Can't help the itch to touch, to kiss, to hold him once again.
Now to close his eyes--never open them....

A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning, yearning
For the fool it called a home.

All things he never did are left behind.
All the things his mama wished he'd bear in mind,
And all his dad had hoped he'd know.

The talks you never had, the saturdays you never spent.
All the 'grown-up' places you never went.
And all of the crying you wouldn't understand.
You just let him cry, 'make a man out of him.'

A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning, yearning
For a fool it called a home.

All things he ever wished are left behind.
All the things his mama did to make him mind,
And how his dad had hoped he'd grow.

All things he ever lived are left behind.
All the fears that ever flickered through his mind.
All the sadness that he'd come to own.

A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning, yearning
For the fool it called a home.

And it whistles through the ghosts still left behind.
It whistles through the ghosts still left behind.
Whistles through the ghosts still left behind.

Ellen Degeneres Speaks Out on the Events of this Past Month..



Thank you Ellen!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

San Francisco's Message to LGBT Youth - Hang in there, IT GETS BETTER

The Gay and  Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation  is reporting the  horrific  news  from  two states this week.,
---------------------------------------------- 
Opinion by GLAAD
The stories of two 13-year-old boys – one in Texas, the other in California – are the latest tragic outcomes of school bullying.
On Thursday, September 23rd, David Truong arrived home to find his 13-year-old stepson shot to death.  While his parents were at work, Asher Brown (above) came home from school and shot himself in the head.

Brown’s parents say he was “bullied to death,” picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes.  Though Brown recently told his parents he was gay, it’s unclear as to whether he disclosed this information to any of his peers at school.  


What is clear, according to Brown’s parents, is that he was accused of being gay, and some of his peers went so far as to mock performing sexual acts on him in his physical education class.
Brown attended Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.
Amy Troung, Brown’s mother, says she and her husband complained about her son’s bullying for 18 months up until the time of his death.  She says that despite numerous phone calls, e-mails and visits to the school, administrators never responded.
Fox affiliate KRIV-TV also covered the story of Brown’s death.  Numerous comments left on the station’s Web site by parents and students affirm Amy Troung’s statement that her son had been bullied for years and that school officials did nothing to stop the harassment.
“He was just such a sweet boy,” says Amy Troung.
School bullying had been a problem for Brown long before attending Hamilton Middle School.  His family actually relocated to the Cypress-Fairbanks area to get away from another school district where Asher was also being bullied – a move they say only made matters worse.
“It has to stop.  I don’t want any other family to have to go make funeral arrangements like I did for my son.  He wasn’t supposed to die at 13,” says Amy Troung.
Services for Brown will be held on Saturday, October 2nd.
Meanwhile, in California, a 13-year-old boy remains on life support after attempting to take  his own life on September 19 by hanging himself from a tree.  According to friends and neighbors, the boy, whose name has not appeared in the media, is openly gay and has been bullied for years – even after being put on independent study earlier this year.
---------------------------------------
UPDATE -  Wed 9/29 Seth Walsh, the Tehachapi 13-year-old who hanged himself from a tree in his back yard after years of being bullied, died Tuesday afternoon after nine days on life support.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------     
Conservatives like James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter and Maggie Gallagher smile approvingly when an American Teenager is bullied to death in his or her own school. 
These hateful bigots have no problem with the death of a child. If  the child happens to be Gay or Lesbian. The Truth is this - The anti- gay "social conservative" movement in the United States is now no better than the lunatic bigots in Uganda who are calling for all Gays and Lesbians to be rounded up and killed.

Seattle columnist Dan Savage has started a video project called "It Gets Better" urging Gay and Lesbian youth to stay alive. To NOT take their own lives because life does and will get better.

   


     The message of the video project is simple. DONT GIVE UP. Middle school and high school will not last forever. You grow up you find you are part of a  real community and NOT ALONE. 
Life moves on, and so will you . Don't end your life, LIVE your life because - IT GETS BETTER.     
Savage and his husband issued a challenge to LGBT Communities in major cities to add their voices in this fight. San Francisco filmmaker Matt Baume, heard the challenge and put the word out. This past Sunday, San Francisco answered. 


Here is what we had to say.




UPDATE - Wed 9/29.  The  San Francisco Gay Mens Chorus  adds their "voice".


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Amazing Time-Lapse Images of San Francisco

Living here it's easy to  forget to stop and look around at the amazing beauty of  our City by The Bay...


The Unseen Sea from Simon Christen on Vimeo.

Everything You Need To Know...

About the GOP's  "Pledge to America"  summed up by our good friends over at The Daily Show.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party


(hat tip to waking up now.)

President Obama Says "Get in the Game!"

Yesterday  was the  last  real chance  Congress had this year, to repeal the U.S. Military's  discriminatory and  unconstitutional  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.  And it completely  failed.   It is interesting to note  that  repealing  DADT  was  one of the  President Obama's  key campaign promises  to the  LGBT Community.



Yet the President  did no personal  lobbying  on this vote.  Instead he spent the  time on a call with the  winning  WNBA  Seattle Storm basketball team.

While President Obama  was  talking jump shots with  the WNBA,  Republicans were able to successfully filibuster the vote on the  Defense Authorization bill  that would have included the provision to end  the  DADT policy.  So just as with the issues of  Marriage Equality,  Employment Non-Discrimination, and  LGBT Inclusive Immigration Reform.  The issue of  Gay and Lesbian Americans being kicked out of the military for being honest, has been set aside by this Administration and  Democratic Congressional majority due to their inability to overcome  GOP  obstructionism.

This afternoon I happened to check my email and  what did I find?  Another  email from  "Organizing for  America" the former campaign communications arm of the Obama-Biden campaign.    









The email  was very much like all the others  OAF  has sent me this past year.  Asking for  money and saying I needed  to  "get more involved" and exhorting  me  to work as hard for  President Obama as he and the Democrats  are working for me.  


As I read  that  I suddenly found myself  wondering what that  would  actually look like,  were I work as hard  for  President and Obama and the Democratic Party on their keys issue,  like the Midterm Elections, as they have been working  on the issues that are important to me...

If I work just as hard for Barack Obama as he has worked for me...

In the weeks ahead when I encounter insane lies and distortions about the President's record, I will shrug sadly, and make vague yet eloquent statements on the need to "come together" and "effect real change".

In the days ahead, when I am told by OFA and the DNC how important it is to support them so we can keep moving forward, I will smile in a genuine and empathetic manner. Then say how I understand how they might feel my support hasn't come quickly enough or doesn't seem strong enough. But I will then mention how I have all these other things on "my plate" right now.   But  I'd PROMISE to get around to supporting the National Party and races
sometime real soon.

On Election Day, When I am urged to get out and vote and to pick up the phone and urge my friends and family to get out and vote for the Democratic congressional candidates,   I would  instead, spend that time talking to friends about their basketball game.

And over the next Two Years, as the Republican Majority in both houses of Congress turns the Obama Administration into a lame duck, and OFA and the DNC complain to me about it, I would smile sympathetically and say they need to understand the "current reality", and remind them of all the support I have given them in the past, and how that should be enough for them right now. 



I would add to that of course,  about how I was on their side, and  they certainly  could still count on my full support for them, and their key issues.... At some undetermined point in the future.

That is what it would look like if I  give President Obama and Democratic Party the same unwavering support and  commitment that they have given  LGBT Americans.

Looking at the past  two years  it's really not hard  to see why  progressive voters are having a hard  time getting "fired up" about the 2010 Midterms.  "Vote for us!  We're not the Republicans"  isn't enough  when you campaigned  on hope and change,  but  governed with  timidity and  political  cowardice.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My 2010 Mid Terms "Enthusiasm Gap"

As some of you  have  remarked in emails and text messages,   it has been about two weeks since I have posted anything new  on here  and  yeah..  I really don't have a  good excuse.  Or maybe I do...  Lately  it has been hard  to  write about  the current  state of politics and culture in the United States without  wanting to scream obscenities  and throw things  at the television.  

There is  a wonderful  Ivor Novello  song  from  the soundtrack to  the movie  "Gosford Park".  The title is  "The Land of Might Have Been..."    As we approach  the  2010 mid-term  elections  I find  that title  resonates all too well with how I feel.  



The common  consensus  among the  political  punditry says the  Republicans and the corporate created and funded  Tea Bagger monstrosity  it has  spawned,   will  at the  very least gain control of House or Representatives if not  also the  Senate.  Though, most  projections have the  Democratic Party holding on to the Senate by a narrow  margin.

The fact is,  in 2010,  the face, voice and  mind of the  Republican Party is made up of  people who are  racist, xenophobic   anti-constitutional  nut jobs.  Reality  and fact  play  no role  whatsoever  in  their  world view.   When pressed  to  explain  why they  "feel"  the way they feel.  Or when asked to explain  their  fox generated talking points in  greater  detail,  you get  this...



It has been  popular  to  make  comparisons to the  "Republican  Revolution" of  1994, when  Newt Gingrich lead  the GOP to a  midterm trouncing  of  Bill Clinton and  the  Democrats with their  "Contract  With America".  ( It is interesting to note that  none of the  items  in  that  1994  "contract" were  ever  actually enacted by that  GOP controlled Congress.)    Still  it is worth  examining  what  the  GOP  is promising that they will do  THIS time  if they  win  back  control of congress.



The very idea  that  there is a role for  Government in the welfare of the  American People is  what  the  Republican Party is  running  AGAINST.   The  idea  that   insurance companies  can deny you health insurance  for  a pre-existing condition,   regardless of what  that  condition might be, is what the  Republican party is running FOR.  The idea  that  if you  lose your job and  are unemployed  it is  your fault, is what  the  Republican Party is running FOR.



 The idea that  oil companies  are the real VICTIMS  if  they are  made to pay for the damages  their own negligence  has caused , this is what  the  GOP  in 2010  stands for.



Then on top of all of that  we have  Barack Obama and  the  Democrats.  Citizens of the  Land of Might Have Been.   

We might have had  real  health care reform and a Public Option for  Health Insurance.  But instead we got  mild tinkering   with  insurance coverage  that  while  a good  first  step, will  benefit  insurance companies  more  than  it will help  the  broader problems with Health Care in America.

Now  we have a GOP that is seriously running ON the premise,  that  for a insurance company to NOT be able to deny you coverage or  just drop you for a  pre-existing condition, THAT is  the real crisis that has to be fixed.




We  might have had  real  financial reform in the wake of the  abuses and excesses of  Wall Street. But instead we got  mild  tinkering  with  with  Credit Card  rules and  the same players who took our financial sector the  brink of  collapse  have been allowed to stay right were they are doing the same things.

We might have had  real  advancement  of  civil rights  for all our citizens , including  LGBT Americans.  With  an inclusive  Employment Non Discrimination Act,  repeal of  The Defense of  Marriage Act  and the ending  of  the military's  ridiculous  "Don't Ask,  Don't Tell" policy of   forcing  patriotic and skilled  American Service Personnel  out of the  military simply because they are Gay or Lesbian.   But instead we got  speeches,  nice  inspirational  speeches  that  were meant to provide cover for  political  cowardice.



So after spending  two years trying desperately  to  woo non-existent  Republican support for an agenda  that  an  overwhelming majority of Americans  elected him and his party to enact.  President Obama seems to  finally  be grasping the  political  reality he and  the Democrats are now facing.   If the  Republican Party gains  control of Congress,  President Obama and  the  Democrats will  spend  the next  two years  trying  to  defend  the  meager accomplishments  of the last two years from  repeal, and doing little else.   In a recent speech in Ohio,  the President  finally  seemed willing to  take  the GOP on.



So  I can't help feeling  like  the last  two years  have been such a wasted  opportunity.   Barack Obama ran  with such passion, energy and vision  but  has  governed with such timidity,  as to make me  wonder if  Candidate Obama and  President Obama  are even the same man.

I  understand  the argument  that   if  the Democratic base  doesn't  get  over our  "enthusiasm gap"   all of these dire predictions  of  the damage a GOP controlled Congress would do, will come true.  And I also understand , and have  even made the argument,  that  cowardly Democrats are still better than any of the current  crop of Republicans.  

Yet  the truth is,  I am having  a hard time  getting  energized  about a choice between  apathy and evil.

If  the Democrats  lose  control of Congress  Barack Obama  will  spend  the next  two years  with even less to show for it  than his  first two.   Not much of a record to run for re-election with.

Nobody expects the President to win every battle.  I just wish it didn't seem like  Barack Obama was so afraid of fighting the battle.   I guess what  I really would like is for  life to occasionally imitate art...

video

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Bad News from Lake Wobegon...

It's hard to know exactly how to begin talking about this...

I am a big fan of writer, essayist and radio host Garrison Keillor. His radio show "A Prairie Home Companion" Was something of a tradition for my family when I as growing up. We always listened on Saturday afternoons on Wisconsin Public Radio. Our family even attended the show in person on more that one occasion.

Keillor's stories of his fictional "hometown" of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota tend to resonate with those of us who grew up in small towns in the Midwest. Often his monologues about; "The News From Lake Wobegon" felt like they could easily have been taken from the streets of my own hometown of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.


 I think what always resonated for me, wasn't just the Norman-Rockwell-esque imagery, or the jokes about growing up Lutheran. Rather for me, it was Keillor's stories of how growing up, he felt like an oddball, in his little town.

Like Keillor, I was an awkward, uncoordinated kid who preferred books to baseball gloves, and never really felt like I "fit in". Like Keillor, my daydreams were often of the day I would "see my town in the rear view mirror", as I left to begin my "real life". Also like Keillor, I tend to think more fondly of my small town years later as an "exile" , than I did as someone who had to live there.

Keillor always ends his stories with the tagline; "That's the news from Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

Yet the truth is, I am not sure I will be able to listen to the News from Lake Wobegon anymore. It was one year ago, I posted a blog entry on a news story out of Anoka, MN entitled; "The News from the Real Lake Wobegon". I wrote about how the The Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, had agreed to pay a $25,000 settlement to the family of a high school junior after two teachers harassed the boy and subjected him to classroom jokes, comments and innuendos concerning his perceived sexual orientation.

The student, who was not gay had gone to school officials numerous times complaining about the harassment but was ignored. Now a year later we find out what else has been going on in Anoka, MN. Students have been dying. 

Anoka, MN, is the real life inspiration for Garrison Keillor's fictional hamlet of Lake Wobegon. The High School has had three teenagers commit suicide in the past year. All three students have something in common besides being students in the same school district. All three teens were relentlessly bullied for being Gay.

-------------------------------------
The woman sobbed as she told her son’s story to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board on Monday. “Hi, I’m Tammy Aaberg, the mother of Justin Aaberg, who was a gay student at Anoka High School who committed suicide July 9th of this year.” The school district has become ground zero in the battle between those who want safe spaces for LGBT students and those who want any mention of homosexuality banned from high school campuses.

According to LGBT advocates, Justin’s death is one of three suicides by gay students in the last year, and while the district says it takes bullying seriously and has beefed up discipline against harassment, it has spurned invitations by LGBT groups to do anti-bullying education. To make matters more complicated, a group of parents opposed to homosexuality has formed to put pressure on the board not to bow to LGBT interests.

The district — the state’s largest, with around 40,000 students — made headlines last year when the Minnesota Department of Human Rights alleged that two teachers conspired to harass a student, Alex Merritt, who they thought was gay. The news led to protests at school board meetings urging the district to adopt stronger anti-bullying policies and offers by LGBT groups to provide education. The school board rebuffed those efforts.

Now, with news of three suicides by LGBT students within a year, family and friends who have lost loved ones are demanding the district make changes.

“For those of you who have never had a gay child, you need to know it is one of the scariest things to learn because you know that they will need to deal with a lot of criticism and harassment in their lives, and it makes me worry,” Aaberg said.    Justin’s family and friends told the board that he had been bullied at Anoka High School before he took his own life. “Do you think my son Justin deserved to die because there are other kids who feel superior by picking on him and no staff member will stop them?” she asked the board.

Two LGBT students also used the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting to describe their feelings of isolation at school.     Christina, who graduated from Anoka High School and who was friends with Justin, said, “When experiencing these problems, you can’t go to your parents, where you face rejection from those you love the most.” She continued, “You can’t go to your church if you are in condemnation from a religion you’ve always embraced.”

Megan, another 2010 graduate, took issue with the school’s policies. “It says that it is better for students to go to their home or their community or their church. I can’t go to any of those. I go home and my parents tell me I am cursed. I go to my church and I am rejected and condemned. I go to my community? What community do I have to go to?”    Megan was referring to a 2009 school board policy that says sexual orientation is not to be taught in the district.
Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations. Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions.
That policy, the AH District 11 Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy, has become the battleground for LGBT advocates and members of the religious right.    Last July, a shadow group of parents formed in the district with the intention on staving off any advances for LGBT students.   The Parents Action League launched  its website in June along with a petition that reads;

 “Whereas homosexual behavior exposes participants to many life-threatening health risks; and whereas the classroom environment needs to be solely focused on academics; Therefore, we the undersigned citizens of Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11 do whole heartedly support and desire that the School Board adhere to … the AH District 11 Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy.”
 
When the Minnesota Independent asked who founded the group and if it had any connections to other “pro-family” groups in the state, an unsigned email came back: “We think our website explains very well what we’re about and who founded it – citizens in the Anoka Hennepin School District.”  
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Growing up Gay in a small town is quite simply an exercise in terror. On some level every day had some undercurrent of fear of your "secret" being discovered. The ultimate put-down was to say something was "gay" or to be called a "fag". You see the kids who were even slightly effeminate or "different" getting tormented on a daily basis.

For so many LGBT youth, High School is not, the "best years of your life", it is frankly something to be survived and put behind you as quickly as possible. And here we see the "good people" of Anoka, after having had three of their own teenagers bullied to death, are apparently trying to get people to sign petitions to dish out even more hate against their own kids.    
 
Suicide is the leading cause of death for LGBT Youth. Organizations like The Trevor Project have been working to help communities address the problems and provide education, resources and support.  



The Trevor Project, in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Week launched a powerful new ad campaign "I'm Glad I Failed."  

The ad campaign is aimed at LGBTQ youth who contemplate suicide as a result of homophobia. The ads feature young people with stories of how intolerance and harassment led them to attempt suicide, and how they are glad those attempts failed because their lives have changed for the better.

This Saturday will be the first in a long time where I won't be tuning in to listen to the "News from Lake Wobegon" . Because I know what the news is. If you are a Gay or Lesbian youth in Anoka, MN, your life isn't valued.

 You live in a community that is quite happy to just stand idly by while you are bullied to death, to the point of even starting a petition drive to PREVENT anything from being done about it.

I want Garrison Keillor to talk about this. I want him to tell the people of his hometown to stop killing their kids. I want him to tell his audience that the real news from Lake Wobegon Minnesota is that the women may be strong, and the men may be good looking, but the children are expected to kill themselves if they are Gay.

And that has to stop.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Wow.. the end of an era...

 Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced today he would not seek a 7th term.    I lived in Chicago for  5 years before moving to  CA.   Love him or hate him,  you can't  deny that  like is father,  he was a poltical force that  forever changed  the face and  direction of  the City of Chicago.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Great info ad from Stop8.org

(hat tip to John over at  Americablog)

Giving "credit" where credit is due...

As the combat mission in Iraq comes to an end.  Rachel Maddow gives us a brilliant look back on  just how we got here in the first place...