Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I Am Not A Patriot

That’s right. I said it. I am not a patriot. Given the rah rah rah nationalism that has swept the land, it would probably be in my best interest to change my identity and move to Papua New Guinea, but first let me explain where I’m coming from.

I don’t hate the United States, although I do deeply abhor the current leadership. I love living where I live. I am grateful that I am able to enjoy the freedoms I enjoy, and I am thankful to (for the moment) have the freedom to fight for those that I am not yet afforded. I love Hollywood, Disney World and Starbucks. But, I have never been able to understand the whole “us” against “them” thing that so many people, American and otherwise, hold so tightly in their fists. I love, passionately, the diversity of cultures and histories on our planet, but histories and cultures almost never are well represented by the government sponsored borders that are somehow supposed to clearly define them. I don’t know that we should totally do away with national maps, but, we should definitely, as people, be more aware of the way borders are used to limit our experiences by those in power. Multi-national (read as: American) corporations figured all of this out some time ago, but the average Joe is still hoping that “we” will kick “their” asses.

Certainly, pride in one’s own accomplishments is a good thing. Patriotism is false pride. It’s not dissimilar to, for example, a Miami Dolphins fanatic who lives out accomplishments vicariously through a team that somehow, purportedly, represents the citizenry of Miami. If the Dolphins make it to the Super Bowl, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, then, people who happen to live their lives within the artificial borders of the city of Pittsburgh become the enemy to Dolphins fans. If the Dolphins win, this is supposed to prove, somehow that “we” are better than “they.” Nationalistic pride just feeds the “us” against “them” mentality that tolerates racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism. Complete nonsense.

Last week I visited Pittsburgh, where I grew up. Pittsburgh and Miami are nearly as different as two cities can be. But, really one is not better than the other, they’re just different. Miami has sub-tropical weather, beautiful beaches, amazing sunsets, and a Latin American rhythm. Pittsburgh has rolling hills, picturesque city parks, world-class museums and an Eastern European heritage. They are both great places, filled with wonderful people and opportunities.

Recently, my friend Ann, who used to live here in Miami Beach and now lives in Connecticut, sent me, several other friends and family members the following e-mail entitled FUNNY!:

You gotta love Robin Williams...Leave it to Robin Williams to come up with the perfect plan ..
what we need now is for our UN Ambassador to stand up and repeat this
message. Robin William's plan.(Hard to argue with this logic!)

I see a lot of people yelling for peace but I have not heard
of a plan for peace. So, here's one plan.

1.) The US will apologize to the world for our "interference"
in their affairs, past & present. You know, Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo,
Noriega, Milosevic and the rest of those 'good ole boys,' We will never
"interfere" again.

2.) We will withdraw our troops from all over the world,
starting with Germany, South Korea and the Philippines. They don't want us
there. We would station troops at our borders. No one sneaking through holes
in the fence.

3.) All illegal aliens have 90 days to get their affairs
together and leave. We'll give them a freetrip home. After 90 days the
remainder will be gathered up and deported immediately, regardless of who or
where they are. France would welcome them.

4.) All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited
to 90 days unless given a special permit. No one from a terrorist nation
would be allowed in. If you don't like it there, change it yourself and
don't hide here. Asylum would never be available to anyone. We don't need
any more cab drivers or 7-11 cashiers.

5.) No foreign "students" over age 21. The older ones are the
bombers. If they don't attend classes, they get a "D" and it's back home

6.) The US will make a strong effort to become self-sufficient
energy wise. This will include developing nonpolluting sources of energy but
will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The
caribou will have to cope for a while.

7.) Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries $10 a
barrel for their oil. If they don't like it, we go some place else. They can
go somewhere else to sell their production. (About a week of the wells
filling up the storage sites would be enough.)

8.) If there is a famine or other natural catastrophe in the
world, we will not "interfere." They can pray to Allah or whomever, for
seeds, rain, cement or whatever they need. Besides most of what we give them
is stolen or given to the army. The people who need it most get very little,
if anything.

9.) Ship the UN Headquarters to an isolated island some place.
We don't need the spies and fair weather friends here. Besides, the building
would make a good homeless shelter or lockup for illegal aliens.

10.) All Americans must go to charm and beauty school. That
way, no one can call us "Ugly Americans" any longer. The Language we speak
is ENGLISH.....learn it...or LEAVE...Now, isn't that a winner of a plan.

"The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying 'Give me your poor,
your tired, your huddled masses. She's got a baseball bat and she's yelling,
'You want a piece of me?'"

~~~If you agree with the above forward it to friend...

If not, and I would be amazed, DELETE it !!!!!

I suppose being immersed in American suburbia has deadened her sense of right and wrong so much that she didn't think that many on the receiving end of this garbage would be offended. I know she's not a bad person. She's actually an incredibly compassionate and loving human being. It just scares me to think that this kind of hate in the name of country has become so normalized that she didn't even think twice about it. My partner of nearly four years, from Argentina, was "illegal" for the first two years of our relationship. We went through, and are still going through, hell to make sure that we're allowed to continue building a life together here. She knows this, and still she thought I'd get a chuckle out of this. Instead she got a "reply all" fuck you from another friend. Unfortunately, she thought that was the offensive part of the story.

Oh yeah, I didn't think Robin Williams would say something so ridiculous either...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Evolution Is Being Televised

For the past few days I’ve been completely holed up watching the evolution literally being televised. The past year hasn’t been exactly stellar for the homo-affectionally inclined. With the rise of the American Taliban, we’ve just been losing one battle after another, with state after state eagerly legislating gay Americans into the less-than-human category, and everyone from the Pope to Mel Gibson hell-bent on banishing us to hell. Conversations about constructing a gay Underground Railroad to Canada became eerily serious, and HIV and crystal meth stepped up their attacks on our communities. On top of all of this, Sex and the City ended leaving the entire gay community feeling like they had just lost most of their best friends, and Will & Grace entered into the Roseanne show zone (this is when a ground-breakingly funny sitcom outlives its expiration date and continues its run two, sometimes even three, seasons longer than it should).

Last week, gay America took a giant leap forward with the introduction of Logo, the first readily available all-gay cable channel. The programming includes gay-themed movies, documentaries, original series, comedy shows and music concerts. Even many of the commercials are gay-themed (the Orbitz commercials are kind of shockingly gay). I knew that Logo was coming some time ago, but I had no idea that it would have such an impact. I have seen countless gay-themed movies and plays, read a ton of gay books and listened to incalculable hours of gay music. I’ve even been to two Pet Shops Boys concerts – which are, hands down, the absolute gayest events on Earth. And yet, to have a television channel with 24 hours a day programming for gay people just so unbelievably cool! It’s so fucking exciting to think that ordinary, straight, middle-American channel surfers with little, or no, exposure to “the queers” might stumble into understanding us just a little better and hating us just a little less. Or, maybe not. Maybe it’ll just be fun for us – and

Last night, we watched Torch Song Trilogy with some friends. After nearly 20 years, Torch Song still stands unsurpassed as the most excellent gay film ever. Ever. I have seen it at least 20 times and it still makes me grateful that my life time coincides with the Torch Song Trilogy era. It stars Harvey Fierstein, Matthew Broderick and Anne Bancroft, and seriously, if you care about anyone who’s gay, you owe it to your relationship with them to see this movie.

After more than a year of crippling disappointments, Logo reignites hope and reenergizes the gay soul. Welcome to our culture.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Nuts And Bolts Of It

A short while back, Mr. Hof was inspired by Mr. Sideways to raise the blogger challenge flag and the following gauntlet was thrown:

You did not have perfect parents (none of us do/did). They set your sights 'off' on a few things. Blog out one of the sights you now, as an adult, realize your parents set wrong.

After much deliberation, some hesitation and a threat from A* , I have accepted the challenge.

The first thing I can remember is the excitement of seeing a school of little fish swimming along the shore. It’s hazy, but I remember throwing my little pink sand bucket in the water, and the fish scattered and disappeared. Linda went into the surf and got my bucket back. I threw it into the surf again. I also remember lots of talk about “the motel.” Somehow, in my three year old mind, I surmised that a motel must be an animal. I can still remember my confusion over what a motel must look like. We entered a room and I immediately began searching for a motel. I looked everywhere – even under the bed. They asked me what I was looking for, and I told them that I was looking for the motel. I remember a huge burst of laughter. I was three and we were on vacation in Panama City. It was the vacation that was always referred to as “the trip we took to Florida right after we got you.”

Four years ago, a series of coincidences and a little determination led me to Madeira Beach on the West Coast of Florida to meet my biological mother for the first time since I was two years old. All those years of wondering came crashing upon me in a literal split second when she opened the door. The first few minutes of our new relationship were a frenzied Polaroid snapshot series of muddled emotion. I was thoroughly stunned by the surrealism of the moment. For whatever reason, I hadn’t expected it to be so, um, heavy.

I saw baby and toddler pictures of myself for the first time. I saw pictures of my father and my grandparents for the first time. I learned that my ancestors were Jewish, German and Irish. I was told that my abandonment, at two years old, was really just a bit of a mix-up – a mistake. My parents met in Pittsburgh, fell in love, got married and had me. Apparently, when I was two, they decided that they had made a mistake and got divorced. My mother and my maternal grandparents always spent summers in Pittsburgh and winters in Miami Beach (yeah, kind of weird that I ended up back in Miami Beach, huh?). My mother chose to leave me with my father and move back home to Florida. One day, my father made the decision not to pick me up from the babysitter – ever. The babysitter, Peggy, never called the authorities and just sort of gave me to her daughter, Mary Jane, in what she thought would be a temporary foster situation. At this point, I’m told, I stopped speaking and spent much of my day hiding in closets and under furniture. Mary Jane became concerned when, after a few months, her two-year-old daughter, Kathy, began to mimic my behaviors. She asked her cousins, Ruth and Edward, if they would be able to provide a foster home. In the driveway, they made the decision to take me in. A few weeks later, we were vacationing in the Redneck Riviera, and Linda, who is 13 years older than me, became my sister and saved my little pink sand bucket from floating out to sea.

I grew up calling Ruth and Edward mom and dad. I have no recollection of life before them, and they never hid what they knew of my story. When I was entering middle school, it was discovered that I had no social security number or birth certificate, and, as a remedy, just before my twelfth birthday I was legally adopted. My new parents were well into their fifties, and not particularly nurturing personalities. Edward was a miserable alcoholic, who beat the fuck out of me regularly. I would often “forget” my gym uniform for school so I could keep the welts on my legs hidden. Ruth was the kind of person who was never happy unless she was complaining about something. My sister Linda has a heart of gold and I love her as much as any little brother can love a big sister, but she got married and moved out when I was just six and I was left to fend for myself. As a kid, I spent most of my time alone in the woods behind the house. I mapped out the entire forest, watched a litter of foxes grow, and listened for fleeting scarlet tanagers and raucous blue jays. I developed an intense relationship with Nature that still comforts me to my core.

By fourteen I was escaping to my friend Erik’s house as much as possible. His parents were divorced and his dad let us do pretty much whatever we wanted. We were complete delinquents, and as Erik’s sidekick, I felt a part of something for the first time ever. We shoplifted cassette tapes, U2 posters and Jams® shorts (it was 1984, what do you want?) and sold them at school for money for cigarettes and pot. By graduation, I was living in my car – a Ford Pinto no less, and having the time of my life.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a sight that my parents set wrong. Fuck, it’s difficult for me to define parents. My sights weren’t set wrong. They weren’t even presented to me. As a result of my childhood, I have a deep, vertigo-inducing well of anger and shame. The sides are so steep that I can’t really look into it for fear of falling in. Fortunately, I am also equipped with a bottomless supply of empathy and compassion.

The unusual circumstances of my personal history have always placed me firmly in the enchanted position of outsider looking in, and that’s not always a bad thing. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to accept full responsibility for every accomplishment in life. If I don’t do another fucking thing, but sit on the couch and watch Brady Bunch re-runs for the rest of my life, I’ve beaten the odds. And that’s kinda cool.

I’m still trying to make sense of it all, but I’m getting there. I’ll be in Pittsburgh in two weeks visiting Ruth and Linda and my beautiful eight-year-old niece, Nicole.