Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Surely by now, the GOP must realize that beating up on gays is not the surefire way to win an election. If doesn't work in Kentucky, there are few states where it WILL work (I hope).
Today, I am proud to be a native Kentuckian.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Voters across Kentucky received automated calls suggesting the calls came from "the homosexual lobby" and supported Beshear.This is classic GOP to scapegoat LGBT people when elections aren't going their way. Fletcher is actually touting his history of removing an executive order to prevent discrimination in hiring and firing for LGBT workers. He believes LGBT people in Kentucky have no rights worth protecting or mentioning. He wants to be sure our relationships are destroyed, we are fired from our jobs, and prevented from having children.
"Beshear is receiving major support from out-of-state gay activists and has publicly committed to same-gender relationships, employment of more homosexuals in state government, including teachers, and support for homosexual adoption of children," the calls said. "If you believe these rights are fair, please vote for Steve Beshear for governor."
Darryl Weaver of Lexington called the message "a dirty trick." Allen Phillips, a Shelby County dairy farmer, said he was disgusted to find one of the mysterious calls on his answering machine. Phillips said he already had planned to vote for Beshear, and the call cemented his decision.
"I knew they were going to dip to the bottom of the barrel, but man, I never thought they'd scrape this low," Phillips said.
The calls did not state who paid for them. They suggested that voters visit the Web site of the Fairness Coalition, a Louisville civil-rights group for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. The Fairness Coalition's political action committee did endorse Beshear, calling him "tolerant," but the group had nothing to do with the calls, said Darnell Johnson, organizational manager.
"We think the calls are a sad attempt at this late moment to change the vote using a fear tactic," Johnson said.
The Fletcher campaign and the Kentucky Republican Party denied making the calls or knowing who did. The state GOP already has recruited Christian singer Pat Boone to make automated calls accusing Beshear of backing "every homosexual cause" and wanting "Kentucky to be another San Francisco," said party chairman Steve Robertson. In those calls, Boone states who he works for, Robertson said.
This is disgusting. THIS is why the GOP is a clear and present danger to the very lives of LGBT Americans. They are all too willing to gay bash in order to win elections. I am hopeful that Fletcher being 22 points DOWN in the election polls will show up tonight. I am hopeful that Kentuckians will not let gay bashing stand. My home state is often portrayed as backward and stupid. Today, by emphatically throwing the corrupt, immoral Ernie Fletcher out of office, they can make a statement that the stereotype is not true.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
At the allergist's office, I signed in as usual and had to wait for this guy who came in before me to finish. I was called in to the nurse's station, asked the usual question of whether I had any reaction after my last shot, to which I honestly answered no. I think I've had one reaction in my life, and it was a severely itchy throat. The adrenaline given to me at that time fixed it. I have been taking allergy shots since 1983 when I first diagnosed with allergies and asthma, so the shots are no big deal to me. They also help with my symptoms.
I get four shots about every 3-4 weeks, two in each arm. There's one for trees and other pollen. There's one for animal dander. There's one for grasses, and a final one for foods. Yeah, I'm allergic to a LOT of stuff.
I got my receipt, and then I went back to the waiting room. The policy is to wait for 30 minutes to be sure that you don't have a reaction. I grew up being told that if a reaction was going to happen, it almost always happened within 20 minutes, so I wait at least 20 minutes before leaving.
Upon sitting in a chair, I was suddenly overcome with nausea, and although I did not know why, I felt I could vomit any moment. I went to the bathroom in the office, and halfway dry heaved twice. Then I started sneezing....and sneezing....and sneezing some more. The nausea passed, but I felt the need to cough. When I did, it felt like a firestorm going on in my upper lungs, and I could almost feel my alveoli closing up with each cough. The alveoli are the air sacs in your lungs where oxygen is transferred to the blood and carbon dioxide released. If those close, you're in serious trouble.
I felt that I was having a reaction, and one look in the mirror confirmed it. My face was bright red, as if my skin was about to spontaneously bleed. The whites of my eyes were red. I knew I needed to get help.
I walked out of the bathroom and went to the nurse's station. No one was there, so I pressed the button that you usually press if a nurse is not present when you arrive for your shots. A nurse was around the corner, and one look at me caused her to say, "Oh shit. Sweetie, come here." She immediately gave me a shot of adrenaline, and then took me in the back to an examining room.
On the way, the allergist was in the hall. He was not my usual allergist, but he was the partner on duty at this particular location today. He was a cool customer. I know why; the last thing you need for a patient having a systemic reaction to his allergy shots is panic. He acted like this happens every day, and asked me what I was feeling while he listened to my chest. A female med student was in the office and she listened to the front of my chest. He had me breathe deeply, and that caused another coughing fit and a round of tightening in my lungs. My cough had a raspy quality to it that almost whistled. He ordered liquid zyrtec, which is an antihistamine, and chewable benedryl. He also ordered another dose of adrenaline along with a nebulizer treatment to open my lungs. I've had those nebulizers before when I've had to go to the hospital with a bad asthma attack.
It was difficult to do the breathing treatment because the medicine was causing me to cough, and I kept sneezing with a running nose. My eyelids felt swollen. I could not breathe out of my nose, and I could not hear. My ears felt swollen and on fire. I could feel pressure building up behind my ear drums, and I had trouble hearing. My face was on fire with flushing. My blood pressure measured at 90/70....I'm not sure if it's EVER been that low. My pulse was 90. I'm not sure how I was not passing out, although the doctor kept asking if I felt light headed or dizzy. I felt slightly light headed, but nothing serious.
The doctor sat on a chair in front of me, talking with me and then explaining everything to the student. Why he asked certain questions, what the answers mean, and what physical symptoms to watch for to be sure the reaction is being controlled. He had another shot of adrenaline, half as strong, given to me again.
The sneezing finally abated, but I kept having to blow my nose. I had a light yellow liquid coming out, which is likely plasma from the increased blood flow. After a few minutes, my nose started to bleed, which was from the expanded blood vessels and the forceful blowing. At this point, my left nostril was completely swollen shut and my right nostril was probably 99% closed. Luckily, my throat was open, and the asthma attack was abated.
I called work to tell them that I was not going to make it back this afternoon, and then I had to call Daniel and Tim to tell them I was not going to be able to go with them to the Emory YD meeting as we'd planned. Even with all the adrenaline in my veins, I was feeling tired already from the ordeal, and I knew when it passed, I would not be worth crap to anyone. I also called my mom to tell her what happened, because I knew if I did not, I'd catch hell later when I told her. We are all the other has in the world, and I know if something happened to her, I want to be told about it as soon as possible.
I had an ice pack to help with the nose bleed, and it felt so good against my still-flushed face. The doctor felt comfortable enough to see other patients and have nurses keep an eye on me by visiting every few minutes. After nearly two hours, I still was slightly flushed, but my eyes were much better, and my face was not nearly as red. My left nostril was still clogged, so he gave me one last dose (1/3 the strength of the first two) of adrenaline to be safe. I was handling the adrenaline pretty well, only shaking slightly. The last shot opened me up all the way, and it made me slightly jittery.
Since I had not eaten, the doctor told me to get food, and that would help with my body metabolizing the adrenaline. I stopped for lunch on the way home, and then went to bed. I could only lightly rest though, because the adrenaline had my heart racing, and my arms were hurting from all the shots.
I'm still tired, and I'm pretty amazed at how QUICKLY the reaction came on, and the severity of it. They asked all kinds of questions to explain how I had a reaction THIS time, when I have always handled the shots well. I had not been drinking, angry, running, excited, or exposed to an allergen in the last day or so. I did not take any aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol. There was nothing to explain why I had the reaction this time. I will be back in about a month for another set of shots, severely decreased I'm sure.
This was a frightening episode, but I find that when faced with a crisis, I become extremely calm. I focus on doing what I need to do at the time, which in this case, was getting help. I do not know why I am like this, but I am quite grateful for it.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
An Open Letter to the LGBT Community
from Bishop Gene Robinson
October 9, 2007
Now that the Church has had some time to absorb and consider the recent meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans and its response to the Anglican Communion, I’d like to share with you what I experienced at the recent House of Bishops meeting, and where I think we are as a result.
There is NO “mind of the House” nor a “mind of the Episcopal Church.” In fact, we are a House and a Church of many different minds. We are in transition from the Church we have been called to be in the past, to the Church we are called to be now and in the future. We are not there yet.
I value highly the thoughts and needs of my brother and sister conservative bishops, who have no intention of leading their flocks out of the Episcopal Church, but come out of dioceses which, for the most part, find the Episcopal Church’s actions of the last four years troublesome and alarming. I listened to them when they voiced the fears of their people that changing our views on homosexuality is a precursor to moving on to denying important tenets of our orthodox faith, from the Trinity to the Resurrection. We worked for a statement which would reflect the diversity we recognize and value as a strength of our Episcopal communion. It was our goal to describe the Church as it currently is: NOT of one mind, but struggling to be of one heart.
My own goal – and that of many bishops – was to do NOTHING at this meeting. That is, our goal, in response to the Primates, was simply to state where we are as an Episcopal Church, not to move us forward or backward. Sometimes, “progress” is to be found in holding the ground we’ve already achieved, when “moving forward” is either untimely or not politically possible. And, doing nothing substantive respects the rightful reminder to us from many in the Senior House that the House of Bishops cannot speak for the whole Church, but rather must wait until all orders of ministry are gathered for its joint deliberations at General Convention.
While many of us worked hard to block B033 and voted against it at General Convention, it IS the most recent declaration of all orders of ministry gathered as a Church. The Bishops merely restated what is, as of the last General Convention.
Yes, we did identify gay and lesbian people as among the group included in those who ‘present a challenge” to the Communion. That comes as a surprise to no one. It is a statement of who we are at the moment. Sad, but true.
Many bishops spoke on behalf of their lgbt members and worked hard to prevent our movement backwards. We fought hard over certain words, certain language. We sidelined some things that truly would have represented a movement backwards.
I want to tell you what I said to the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the course of his comments, it seemed to me that the Archbishop was drawing a line between fidelity to our gay and lesbian members, and fidelity to the “process of common discernment,” which he had offered as a prime function of a bishop. I heard him saying that gay and lesbian members of our Church would simply have to wait until there was a consensus in the Communion. When we were invited to respond, I said something like, “Your Grace, I have always respected you as a person and your office, and I always will. But I want you to know and hear, that to me, a gay man and faithful member of this Church, this is one of the most dehumanizing things I’ve heard in a long time, and I will not be party to it. It reminds me of Jesus question ‘Is the Sabbath made for man, or man for the Sabbath?’ Choosing a process over the lives of human beings and faithful members of this Church is simply unacceptable and unscriptural.” The next morning, the Archbishop tried to assure us that he meant both/and rather than either/or. I tried to speak my truth to him.
On the issue of same sex unions, I argued that our statement be reflective of what is true right now in the Episcopal Church: that while same sex blessings are not officially permitted in most dioceses, they are going on and will continue to go on as an appropriate pastoral response to our gay and lesbian members and their relationships. Earlier versions of our response contained both sides of this truth. I argued to keep both sides of that truth in the final version, providing the clarity asked for by the Primates.
Others made the argument that to state that “a majority of Bishops do not sanction such blessings” implied that a minority do in fact sanction such blessings, and many more take no actions to prevent them. All this without coming right out and saying so. That argument won the day. I think it was a mistake.
Another issue to which I spoke was this notion of “public” versus “private” rites. I pointed out on the floor that our very theology of marriage is based on the communal nature of such a rite. Presumably, the couple has already made commitments to one another privately, or else they would not be seeking Holy Matrimony. What happens in a wedding is that the COMMUNITY is drawn into the relationship – the vows are taken in the presence of that community and the community pledges itself to support the couple in the keeping of their vows. It is, by its very nature, a “public” event – no matter how many or how few people are in attendance. The same goes for our solemn commitments to one another as lgbt couples.
I suspect that these efforts to keep such rites “private” is just another version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” If avoidance of further conflict is the goal, then I can understand it. But if speaking the truth in love is the standard by which we engage in our relationships with the Communion, then no.
Let me also state strongly that I believe that the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and Primates MISunderstood us when they stated that they understood that the HOB in fact “declared a ‘moratorium on all such public Rites.’” Neither in our discussions nor in our statement did we agree to or declare such a moratorium on permitting such rites to take place. That may be true in many or most dioceses, but that is certainly not the case in my own diocese and many others. The General Convention has stated that such rites are indeed to be considered within the bounds of the pastoral ministry of this Church to its gay and lesbian members, and that remains the policy of The Episcopal Church.
Lastly, let me respond to the very real pain in the knowledge that the change we long for takes time. This movement forward is going to take a long time. That doesn’t make it right. It certainly does not make it easy. Dr. King rightly said that “justice delayed is justice denied,” but that didn’t stop him from accepting and applauding incremental advances along the way.
We have every right to be impatient. We MUST keep pushing the Church to do the right thing. We must never let anyone believe that we will be satisfied with anything less than the full affirmation of us and our relationships as children of God.
BUT, I will continue to try to remain realistic in my approach. I work hard, and pray hard, to find the patience to stay at the table as long as it takes. And I hope we can refrain from attacking our ALLIES for not doing enough, soon enough. The bridges we are burning today may turn out to be the bridges we want to cross in the future. Let’s not destroy them.
We need to be in this for the long haul. For us to get overly discouraged when we don’t get all that we want, as fast as we want, seems counterproductive to me. We should never capitulate to less than all God wants for us, but to lose heart when we don’t move fast enough, and to attack the Church we are trying to help redeem, seems counterproductive.
The two days of listening to the Archbishop of Canterbury and some members of the ACC were the two hardest days I’ve had since my consecration. (It was a constant and holy reminder to me of the pain all of YOU continue to experience every day at the hands of a Church which is not yet what it is called to be. Ours is a difficult and transforming task: to continue serving a church that seems to love us less than we love it!) I was comforted by the support I DID receive from those straight bishops who spoke up for us, and especially by many of the Bishops of color, who implicitly “got” what I was trying to say and defied the majority with their support of me and of us. I was even encouraged by many conservative bishops’ willingness to work together to craft a statement we, liberal and conservative alike, could all live with.
I believe with my whole heart that the Spirit is alive and well and living in our Church – even in the House of Bishops. I believe Jesus when he told his disciples, on the night before he died for us, that they were not ready to hear and understand all that he had to teach them – and that he would send the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth. I believe that now is such a moment, when the Church, in its plodding and all-too-slow a way, is being guided into truth about its gay and lesbian members. It took ME 39 years to acknowledge who I was as a gay man and to affirm that I too am considered precious by God. Of course, the very next day after telling my parents, I expected them immediately to catch up to what had taken me 39 years to come to. Mercifully, it has not taken them the same 39 years to do so. The Church family is no different. It is going to take TIME.
I voted “yes” to the HOB statement. I believe it was the best we could do at this time. I am far less committed to being ideologically and unrelentingly pure, and far more interested in the “art of the possible.” Am I totally pleased with our statement? Of course not. Do I wish we could have done more? Absolutely. Can I live with it? Yes, I can. For right now. Until General Convention, which is the appropriate time for us to take up these issues again as a Church, with all orders of ministry present. I am taking to heart the old 60’s slogan, “Don’t whine, organize!”
I am always caught between the vision I believe God has for God’s Church, and the call to stay at the table, in communion with those who disagree with me about that vision – or, as is the case for most bishops, who disagree about the appropriate “timing” for reaching that vision of full inclusion. In this painful meantime, please pray for me as I seek to serve the people of my diocese and you, the community of which I am so honored to be a part.
Your brother in Christ,
Friday, September 28, 2007
For all those Log Cabin Republicans who delude themselves into thinking that the GOP will EVER care for gay Americans, I offer these FACTS from the vote on adding sexual orientation to this nation's hate crimes laws:
Voting yes: 51 of 51 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (100.00%); 9 of 49 Republicans (18.37%)
Voting no: 0 of 51 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (0.00%); 39 of 49 Republicans (79.59%)
Not voting: McCain (R-AZ)
To be fair, and to applaud those FEW, LONELY GOP senators who voted YES to adding sexual orientation to our nation's hate crimes laws, here is the list of the 9:
1. Coleman (R-MN) - tough re-election in 2008 in a gay-friendly state
2. Collins (R-ME) - ditto, but the Maine "sisters" never have been ones to gay bash
3. Gregg (R-NH) - Another one facing a tough re-election in a newly blue state that just legalized gay civil unions that are marriage in everything but name.
4. Lugar (R-IN) - good for him....no reason to vote yes, but did it because it was RIGHT
5. Smith (R-OR) - Generally a good, decent man who has a history of NOT beating up on gay people. Again, tough 2008 re-election in a blue state.
6. Snowe (R-ME) - good for her...stays true to her non-gay bashing past.
7. Specter (R-PA) Good for him too. Ever since reelection, he's been a thorn in the hard right's side.
8. Voinovich (R-OH) - scary re-election in 2008 where gay bashing hasn't done much to keep a corrupt GOP in office.
9. Warner (R-VA) - Retiring, so he can vote his conscience. Good for him!
Notice however, that if the Senator was a DEMOCRAT, he/she voted YES without any dissention. This includes relatively conservative senators like Nelson of Nebraska, and Tester of Idaho. Even Mr. Bathroom Sex himself voted that it was OK to let hatred of gays fuel your rage against them as you beat, maim, and kill gay people, just like what was done to Matthew Shephard nearly 10 years ago. There is no end to the depravity of the GOP closet.
But make no mistake, gay voters. The GOP does not like you. They will NOT support you in your lifetime. They will do WHATEVER they can as a party to suppress your right to live your life unmolested by bigotry, hatred, or violence. It is only that Democratic Party that elects openly gay people to leadership posts and keeps its promises to pass laws banning hate crimes based on sexual orientation, or ENDA to prevent us from being fired for the sole fact of our being gay. The Republicans would never have allowed these to come to a vote.
Remember that EVERY TIME you go into the voting booth.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
(some material adapted from www.colorofchange.org)
(some material adapted from www.colorofchange.org)
The Young Democrats of Georgia want all young people around the state of Georgia to support intervention in the Jena 6 case. This is a situation of great injustice taking place in
Unfortunately, as at hundreds of other schools across
But last year, a few days into the first semester, a new student, a freshman African American, asked the principal at an assembly, if he, too, could sit under the tree. He was told he could sit anywhere he liked. Three white boys on the rodeo team apparently disagreed. The next morning, there were three nooses in the school’s colors hanging from the “white” shade tree in the courtyard.
The message was clear. "Those nooses meant the KKK, they meant 'Niggers, we're going to kill you, we're going to hang you till you die,'" Casteptla Bailey, a mother of one of the students, told the London Observer. Many in
A few of the black athletes, the stars of the football team, took the lead in resisting. The day after the nooses were hung, they reportedly organized a silent protest under the tree. The school called in the cops and brought everyone to an assembly to be addressed by the district attorney, Reed Walters. The white kids sat on one side. The black kids on the other side. Walters told the students, “With one stroke of my pen, I can make your life disappear.” The black students said the statement was clearly directed toward them. Walters denies this.
Afterward, some whites felt triumphant; some blacks were resentful. Fights began to break out at the high school. But that year, the football team was having an unusually good season and the black athletes were a major reason why. So while there were fights throughout the fall, nobody wanted to take any action that would hurt the team. When the season was over, so was the truce.
A series of incidents of racially tinged violence occurred:
· Somebody burned down
· Robert Bailey, a black kid, was attacked at a predominantly white party, beaten, his head split open by a bottle. The attacker was charged with battery, a misdemeanor.
· The next day, Bailey exchanged words with a white student who had been at the party. The white boy ran back to his truck and pulled out a pistol grip shotgun. Bailey ran after him and wrestled him for the gun. After some scuffling, Bailey and his friends took the gun away and brought it home. Bailey was eventually charged with theft of a firearm, second-degree robbery and disturbing the peace. The white student who pulled the weapon was not charged at all.
· Finally, Justin Barker was over heard bragging in the hallway about Robert Bailey getting his ass beat by a white man. When Justin walked into the court yard he was beaten by six black students. He went to the hospital. His injuries were declared superficial. He was released and went to a school function that night.
The six black students were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. The DA soon upped the charges to Second Degree Attempted Murder.
Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. The difference between assault (misdemeanor) and aggravated assault (felony)? Use of a dangerous weapon. Sort of like the beer bottle cracked over Robert Bailey’s head. The weapon the Jena Six employed? A tennis shoe. The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender refused to mount any defense at all, instead resting his case immediately after two days of government presentation. A talented athlete,
The big shade tree in the courtyard has been chopped into firewood, but the injustice of the
Join the Young Democrats of Georgia in working to stop racial injustice in
Buses will be leaving from
For more information on the Young Democrats of Georgia, please visit www.georgiayds.org.
Friday, July 13, 2007
The meeting was held at Copeland's, which is across from the Disco Kroger at Piedmont and Peachtree. I knew I was going to be alone in this venture, although we were trying to get someone in there who could stealthily record Mike's comments for internet distribution. Shelby had rigged a spy camera with audio, but I'm not certain as of now how much he got.
I'll admit that I was nervous going to this meeting. This was YR turf, and I was invading it. I did not want to disrupt, but I was hoping to throw Mike off his game. I was also curious if his change of party also belied other, more fundamental, changes in his beliefs on certain social issues close to my heart, namely being pro-choice and pro-gay rights.
I came at 7:30pm, hoping to avoid the social hour that started at 7pm. Interestingly, Republicans don't know how to start on time any more than Democrats do. Must be a political thing. :-) I went to the bar and ordered a beer to calm and nerves and to have something to do while I waited for things to start.
I noticed that Mike was holding court right in the doorway, and there was no way to enter without him seeing me. I managed to slip in and make my way to a back table where I sat with a couple of other newcomers to YR-Buckhead meetings. I was a relatively well dressed white guy, so I didn't immediately stand out. To be fair, there was a nice mix of people. Male and female, and about 3 black folks in a crowd of 30. I sipped my beer and just observed.
It wasn't long before Mike spotted me. He was pretty subtle, but I did notice him spreading the word to his YR hosts. They weren't quite as subtle at turning to get a look at me. The meeting finally started with a man named Rufus shouting that if we were proud Republicans to stand up and cheer for Mike Jacobs. The room erupted in a standing ovation, except for me.
The YRs had a nice bulletin to hand out to everyone with Mike's law firm biography and a schedule for the evening. We started with the Pledge of Allegiance, which I gladly participated in. Then came the word of the prayer. Democrats do the same thing at major meetings, and I have no qualms about the pledge or opening in prayer. Well, non-sectarian prayer that asks a Higher Power to bless our meeting, etc. This prayer was not such a prayer.
It began by asking strength to fight those who would "take You out of the public square". It continued by remarking that God has ANNOINTED the GOP to enact His Will here on Earth, and asking for guidance and wisdom in the American people to fight the forces of evil who will lead our country astray. So now I'm with the forces of evil seeking to destroy God and drive Him from the public square. Oooooookay. It made a couple of more references to evil ones (aka Democrats) but stopped short of calling for a mighty jihad by the Army of Christ to strike down the infidels. Then they asked all this in Jesus's name, amen.
The prayer disturbed me on several levels. First, it assumes that everyone in the room was or should be Christian. There were several Jews in the audience. Secondly, the whole invocation of God as having anointed a particular political party to enact His Will smacks of theocracy. How is that different from the radical imams of Iran? They think they are anointed by God to enact His Will too. Then the references to Democrats as forces of evil seeking to undermine God, drive him from the public square, etc. was just laughable if I didn't know they were quite serious. There was a demonization of people who disagree in the prayer that made invoking the name of Christ blasphemous in my opinion. To me, it was nothing short of taking MY Lord's name in vain.
Then Mike was introduced and started speaking. He immediately called attention to me by saying that I should "take notes" on his transformation to a Republican. I was sort of live texting with a few people just to have something to do other than stare at Mike. He started with his story of transformation.
The story began with growing up in Broward County, Florida...home of the hanging chad. I suppose the point was to say he comes from a stock of people who were closely divided between Democrat and Republican. He mentioned Florida several times in his talk from his discussion of property taxes to vouchers to general competition between states. It was weird how much he seemed enthralled with the Florida experience, and I'm not sure why he chose Florida over other border states with Georgia like Tennessee, South Carolina, or Alabama.
He started with taking us back to a night in November 2006 when Mike and his wife took their ballots, sat at the kitchen table, and decided how to vote. I guess this means Mike votes absentee since everyone else votes on electronic machines, and you can't haul one of those to the kitchen table. Anyway, the result of this voting for 2006 was almost a straight GOP ticket. It was a profound awakening for Mike that something was terribly amiss.
Then, the John Eaves ad for the Fulton County run-off happened. This was the infamous ad where John Lewis, Andy Young, and Shirley Franklin said that electing a GOP county chair would be like going back to the days of fire hoses and attack dogs. The ad was way over the top, but effective. Mike said it was typical of race-mongering in the Democratic party and infuriated him. He pointed out that not one Democrat spoke out against it at the time. That is true, and my guess is that the reason was the ad had a point. It was over the top, and not to be taken literally, but the GOP hasn't exactly had the best interests of black folks in the South close to their heart since 1964 when they decided the way to break the "solid South" was to make racist appeals to Southern Whites. It still works...look at the ad against Harold Ford last year in TN which blatantly appealed to the old stereotype of an over-sexed black man out to steal "our white women". I know the GOP doesn't like to be called on their subtly racist appeals to voters, let alone have the tactics used so openly against them. I think the ad was over the top and probably should not have been made, but I can't say the underlying premise that the GOP is hostile to black people as a group is not true.
He continued on a laundry list of wrongs committed against him by the House Democratic Caucus and the DeKalb Democrats in general. Now I'll be the first one to admit that DeKalb Democrats are a special breed. Many could say that they are a bat sh*t crazy bunch, and they would not be wrong. Race issues run long, hard, and deep through the County and the Democratic party. Most people could find a reason to be frustrated by DeKalb Democrats, especially when you ARE one.
Anyway, his point was that the Democratic Caucus continually insisted he vote against the interest of his constituents. This included killing his drive to expand charter schools and his drive to stop DeKalb from making general obligation bonds without going to the voters first. There's a loophole in the law that allows the county commission to load up on debt without asking voters first. Mike has a point that such behavior is wrong and should be stopped. It may not make him popular with the county delegation, but it is an issue important to District 80 who really does not see any of these bond improvements.
This also led to the death of his reform of the DeKalb government, which he oddly blamed on some kind of "deal" that made no sense to me at all. Especially when I know that it was the county commissioners going down to lobby in person against the bill that killed it. It wasn't Vernon Jones, but it was all but one of the county commissioners telling the legislature the bill was unwanted and unnecessary.
The Dunwoody bill was also another part of Mike's grievances. He mentioned that Rep. Stan Watson, who is running for DeKalb CEO next year, said at a forum, "I'm not racist, but this issue is about race." Mike says it is purely about local government. Interesting how the local government angle wasn't a real problem until black folks completely took over the reigns of power in 2000 with the election of Vernon Jones as CEO. The drive behind all these cities is for white folks to keep their money in their neighborhoods. They have grown tired of having their money pay for improvements in black neighborhoods, or at least neighborhoods that are not theirs. I don't know if the recipient neighborhoods were white if it would make a difference, but the timing of this drive is suspect. Mike mentioned he's close to drawing up boundaries for a city of Brookhaven, and that he's even had calls about creating a city of "Toco Hills" to stop the massive development at North Druid Hills and Briarcliff Rds. Toco Hills is a shopping area, not a city. Maybe my area can become the city of Oak Grove. LOL Local control, you know? Not to mention, higher taxes to pay for it all.
Mike also talked about his vote to save vouchers for special needs kids. He mentioned several times that he got 20 (count'em....twenty...two, zero) emails from his district on the issue, and they were ALL in favor of the bill! Some were from constituents who had special needs kids. Not ONE email from his district was received against the bill. So 20 people out of the thousands he represented informed his policy. Mike is now in favor of vouchers across the board to create competition. He doesn't mention how a $7000 voucher will allow a child from a crappy school in a crappier neighborhood to attend the private school of his choice when private school tuition around Atlanta generally starts at $15,000. Vouchers solve nothing in crumbling schools with parents who don't care and children who struggle to just survive. Until they do, there is no point in pursuing them except to give a taxpayer subsidy to those wealthy enough to afford private schools for their kids.
Mike then went on a love fest about tax reform. He believes property taxes are completely unfair and should be abolished. He wants to replace that with a sales tax that will tax just about everything we do in the course of a day. Says it would be revenue neutral. Wonder how neutral it will be when we have an economic downturn and people don't buy stuff? Ask TN how a sales-tax only has worked. They pay about 10% in sales tax there, and that's just the STATE tax. Local taxes can make it go up to 12%. Getting rid of property taxes in GA would allow us to have unfettered development and steal residents and businesses from Florida which suffers a very heavy property tax burden along with a heavy homeowners insurance burden thanks to being a hurricane magnet. So in the rush to take jobs and development from other states, no property taxes will be the answer! I'm a bit skeptical.
This crowd ate it up though. Tax policy is important, but it doesn't jones me up like other issues do. To me, tax policy is the nuts and bolts of government, and people really don't understand how taxes drive everything else. People want to pay little to no taxes, but they want lots of cops on the street, firemen ready to save their home, and paved streets and lights that work. They also want sewage, water, trash collection, etc...all of which are not free. They come from taxes, and someone has to pay them. It's silly to think that you can not pay taxes yourself and still receive the kind of services you demand from government. That kind of Republican thinking makes me question their logical thinking skills.
Mike also went into a litany of complaints about how mean the House Democratic Caucus was to him, all because he voted his district. I'm not sure his district was for keeping kids off Peachcare, as Mike was. There are other examples, but I've already mentioned them in a previous blog. I do remember that the legislatures I knew all referred to him in very demeaning terms. When legislators I know to be generally respectful and even-keeled started calling Mike "that little turd", I knew it was bad for him. Perhaps the schoolyard bullying was not the tactic to use with Mike, but he also did not know how to play the legislative game. There are Democrats in the House in good standing who vote against the caucus quite a bit, but still maintain relationships. Mike does not know how to do this, and it's his way or the highway...exactly what he accused the Democratic caucus of being. He also used the old canard of the Democratic party being held in thrall of the "far left fringe" that doesn't allow for individual expression. OLD argument that continues to go on in the party to this day. If it were true, the Democratic party would be much different than it is. The difference is that Democrats take their squabbles public while Republicans fight behind the closed doors but give a locked down united front when the doors open.
Mike talked about how nice it was to go to a GOP caucus retreat a couple of weeks ago to discuss the tax reform issue, and how open the Speaker was to different viewpoints, etc. He contrasted that with the nasty Democrats who berated him and called him names when he spoke in the well. It was like Mike was on the Student Council, not in the legislature. He also accused Sen. David Adelman of trying to kill one of his bills quietly while voting for it. He doesn't have proof of that, as he'll readily admit, but that's who he thinks it was. Legislators of both stripes do that sort of thing all the time. It may be odd, but it's part of the process. That's why there is a saying that there are two things you never want to know the details of: sausage making and legislating. Mike can't handle the relationships that it takes to be effective within his own caucus, let alone the legislature.
Mike also mentioned several times that Democrats will be gunning for him in 2008 and he will have a very tough race. He will need volunteers and money. That sounded familiar. It was a call we answered in 2004 when he first ran, but to hear Mike talk last night, his 2004 campaign was composed of him and his wife. End of story. They were the ones who knocked on every door in the district and fundraising at the same time. Mike and Evan did do an amazing job walking every street of the district. It was an effort that all of us marveled at. But he did NOT do it alone. He did not hand write all those "Dear Neighbor" cards, and he did not flier his district several different times for community meet-and-greets. The Young Democrats working his campaign did all that, and the Red Clay Democrats had a huge hand in his fundraising. But nary a peep was mentioned, not even a side remark of the work we did for him in that initial race. Ungrateful, rude prick.
He also mentioned immigration and how illegals shouldn't consume government services, period. I would agree with that statement, but then he went on to talk about how we need to build a wall at our border. Like a wall worked so well in Berlin. And it's interesting how we only need a wall at Mexico, but not at Canada. Some guy piped up that we didn't need a wall, just more rifles at the border. I'm not for illegal immigration, but the notion of "hunting" Mexicans driven by desperation to try to enter the US illegally is chilling to me.
Mike also made a comment about Middle East security and Israel, and how quite frankly, the Democratic approach is dead wrong. All but called us anti-Israel. I personally took offense to that, along with the stated notion that to be pro-military is to be GOP. I daresay that Democrats care more about the troops and their wellbeing than any GOPer who looks at them as mere pawns in a hunt for terrorists. Not to mention the GOP which votes to cut the benefits and care for our soldiers.
Anyway, the talk FINALLY ended, and Mike opened it up for questions. There were many follow-ups on economic policy, which is the heart of Mike's Republican change.
I did raise my hand for a question, and Mike actually called on me. I asked him if was still pro-choice and pro-gay rights. I could tell the question angered him, because I pointing out an area that his new Republican friends would not likely appreciate....his socially liberal views. He tried to "politician" me by saying he's always said he supported individual rights, to which I replied, "But that doesn't answer..." and then he erupted. "YES! Alright? YES! The answer is YES." He lost his cool, and I had pointed out a difference that many of the GOP faithful would NOT approve of. My work was done.
That was when I was completely outed. I was asked to introduce myself and who I represented. I told them. "My name is Jason Cecil, and I am the President of the Young Democrats of Georgia." A murmur went through the room, and someone said, "That figures!" We somehow got onto a discussion of gay rights, and I was told there were many people in the room who were pro-gay rights, and I said, "Well, you should speak to Sadie Fields about that then." Snarky? Yes. But here was a group of Republicans seriously trying to tell me that pro-gay rights stands fit within the GOP philosophy when every bit of evidence suggests otherwise.
Rufus at this point told me to shut up, that I was at a Buckhead YR meeting and I could be escorted out. I had wondered if I would be kicked out, and I was prepared to go quietly. But the leadership, both the Buckhead YR chair and the state YR chair told people to calm down, leave me alone, and that I was welcome and safe here. I admit that was pretty classy of them, and it provides an excellent example of civility that I would expect Young Dems to provide to them should they ever come to our events. In fact, I'd insist on returning that kindness. They did not have to step up like that, and I truly appreciated it.
Anyway, we discussed the gay issue more, and Mike seconded that many GOPers would be supportive of gay rights, and I had to pipe up to mention that Jill Chambers was the only GOPer to vote against it in 2004. Mike said had he been there, he would have been a 2nd GOP vote against it. Then people said I was harping on one issue that wasn't important, etc. Well, it's vitally important to me, as a gay man in Georgia who was profoundly affected by the 76% vote in favor of stripping me of any relationship recognition EVER in Georgia. I became quite the focus of many comments, and one girl even remarked, "Be nice, maybe we can convince him to join our side."
The meeting ended with announcements, and the Vice Chair who delivered the prayer had a message for me. He said all Republicans are not white, rich, homeowners. Many rent! But what the GOP provides is opportunity. What the Democrats provide is a guarantee, and a pretty mediocre guarantee at that. And that our nation would never have moved forward had the Democratic mentality been in force at key times. Abe Lincoln wasn't happy with the status quo, and saved our country and freed the slaves. Then he invoked Martin Luther King as not being happy with his guarantee and fighting for more. Yes, MLK was invoked as a key GOP figure in history. He ended with a hope that I would return and perhaps join Mike in seeing the light and joining the GOP.
It was a breathtaking misunderstanding and/or distortion of what it means to be a Democrat. Yes, we stand for having having a floor...a bare minimum that every citizen deserves to have no matter what. But saying that we want that floor and nothing more is ridiculous. Democrats today stand for having welfare recipients actually work to better themselves to maintain benefits. Democrats are also devout Christians, but we don't disdain the Atheist, Jew, Hindu, or Muslim who seeks to participate in our civic discourse. We also don't believe in shoving our faith down the throats of others. We don't think we are "anointed by God" to do His will, but we hope and pray that our actions reflect God's will. We also do not want to drive God from the public square, but there is a difference between being against theocracy and the establishment of a sect of Christianity as the standard for laws in the nation, and driving God from the public square. We wouldn't do half the things we do as Democrats if we didn't take Christ's message of love and compassion VERY seriously.
I could go on, but this post is long enough. I left the meeting after it broke with an offer to come on some radio show to face irate right wing callers, and without saying a word to Mike Jacobs. I have had my say with him. The rest will take place on the streets.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Indulge me while I examine the types of people Mike Jacobs has now embraced and remind everyone why this is a betrayal that the Young Democrats of Georgia will not take lightly and have every intention of seeking vengeance at the ballot box.
Jill Chambers - what a lovely woman. She may have been the sole Republican to vote against the gay marriage amendment, but her record is hardly moderate.
- She has engaged in dirty and deceitful campaign tactics every time she has run for elected office.
- Jill Chambers has taken thousands of dollars from Big Oil and Big Drug companies to spend on her negative campaigns. (see www.ethics.georgia.gov).
- Jill Chambers has voted against the separation of church and state. This bill allows the Attorney General of the State of Georgia to defend counties who display the 10 commandments, meaning you, the taxpayer, are footing the legal fees. (http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/fulltext/hb941.htm)
- Jill Chambers has voted with the majority to cut funding for state schools, a total loss of $89 million to Dekalb County Schools. www.legis.ga.gov
- Jill Chambers voted to increase your natural gas bills by allowing the gas companies to pass on infrastructure improvements to you, the consumer. (http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/fulltext/hb1325.htm)
- Jill Chambers voted to protect predatory lenders and payday loan-sharks that prey upon our military families and soldiers. (http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2003_04/sum/sb157.htm)
- Jill Chambers voted against legislation that would have stopped the out-sourcing of our jobs to overseas corporations. (http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2003_04/sum/hb1281.htm)
- Jill Chambers voted with right-wing extremists in denying voters the right to chose their representatives (http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/fulltext/hb244.htm)
- Jill Chambers voted with the GOP (AND Mike Jacobs) in cutting funds for Children's Healthcare. (http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/sum/hb1027.htm)
Ed Lindsey and Fran Millar are more of the same.
To say that Mike Jacobs’ actions are a disappointment is a gross understatement. He has proven himself to be a selfish opportunist concerned only with his personal power. He first came on the scene as a law student at UGA where he was a driving force behind the website Burns Watch. After he graduated, he moved to DeKalbCounty with his wife, Evan. He immediately joined the DeKalb Democratic Party as a post seat holder. When the courts invalidated the 2002 redistricting maps, the seat that Mike lived in opened up.
With our encouragement, he decided to make a run at this seat, now House District 80. The seat had long been held by a Republican who had recently died, and Mike's opponent in the general election was the namesake son of that representative. Mike's campaign was COMPLETELY staffed and run by Young Democrats. All of us who worked on that campaign spent countless hours making phone calls, helping with town hall meetings, flyering the district, and going door to door. The district had a Democratic performance of 52%, which made it a swing district. We faced an uphill fight, and the state party gave us no chance of winning. We were truly on our own.
But we had a good candidate (or so we thought). Someone whose progressive ideas were genuine but who was charismatic enough to win crossover votes. He personally said to me that there were principles he could never compromise on, and gay rights was one of them. He said he would rather be defeated than to vote against the gay community. Somehow, I now wonder when it comes time to vote on things like gay adoption, Mike will heed the demands of his beloved Speaker Richardson and vote to legally destroy gay families all over this state. Mike Jacobs has no morals and no core values other than his personal aggrandizement and self-interest. I have no reason to believe that his support of the gay community will continue.
Mike won that election by a very close margin in 2004, just as we lost control of the House to complete the GOP takeover of Georgia. It was that shift in power, and Mike's response to it that told of troubles ahead.
Mike has continually supported cuts to Georgia's Peachcare for Kids program, which helps provide health insurance coverage to children of working families. His vote for HB 340 would have allowed thousands of children to be denied health insurance coverage arbitrarily by an unaccountable bureaucrat, and to have their dental and vision coverage removed altogether. Hopefully Mike's newborn child will never need the Peachcare that he wishes to gut.
Mike also supported this year's ghoulish and predatory payday lending legislation. He voted this year, by supporting HB 163, to allow payday lenders to charge up to 395 percent interest rates and to provide de facto amnesty for those loan sharks that broke the law for the better part of the last century by offering these loans despite the fact that they were clearly illegal under Georgia law.
Mike has also supported several measures in the Judiciary Committee that would limit the applicability of the Open Records Act and make public documents more difficult to obtain. Even more disturbing was his support for requiring open records requests to be made in writing. He supported this despite uncontested testimony in committee that the bill would have allowed government to require a citizen to identify themselves and state the reason they wanted certain records in writing before having their request for public information processed. Public documents belong to the public, and should be made available without requiring a citizen to be subjected to aggravation or even political retribution for requesting them. Mike's hilarious statement of support "open government" while he seeks to undermine it through his work in the legislature, is one of the oldest and worst parlor tricks in politics. Such duplicity creates fertile ground for the cynicism that makes good public service more difficult.
Further eroding any credentials he claims as an advocate for open government and individual liberty has been his fawning and unabashed support for Glenn Richardson as Speaker. Richardson has, each and every year that he has been Speaker, sought to limit public debate in the House by gutting the ability of legislators to offer amendments to bills both on the floor and in committee. Richardson has also sought to limit the Open Records Act to allow secret government negotiations affecting millions in taxpayer dollars with private business.
The Speaker has also used his power, won with the aid and support of legislators like Mike Jacobs, to pursue new limits on women's reproductive freedom each year and repeatedly stifled ethics legislation that would eliminate or at least reduce the lavishing of expensive gifts on legislators by registered lobbyists. All this in exchange for committee appointments that serve nothing but to protect his seat.
Mike's rapturous support for Mr. Richardson as Speaker has also enabled the blockage of any meaningful legislation dealing with transportation and traffic congestion. His constituents will have plenty of time to contemplate the many faces of Mike Jacobs as they continue to sit in ever worsening traffic without any meaningful plan for relief. Although it wouldn't surprise me if Mike isn't "rewarded" for his disloyalty to friends and ideals with a seat on the Transportation Committee.
Mike's blog post also suggests support for Richardson’s tax plan, which depending on which version you support would increase current sales taxes by more than 25% and levy billions in new sales taxes on needed everyday goods and services such as groceries and doctors visits. His statement of a belief in fiscal restraint, when combined with his willingness to support a plan to tax everything that moves, raises additional questions about Mike's basic credibility and honesty as a human being.
It reminds me (and many others) of a time last summer in the days before the primary election when Mike sought to switch his support from Cathy Cox to Mark Taylor only because it was obvious that Mark was going to win. That incident was very telling, and espouses Mike Jacobs as a person whose ONLY core value is expediency and whose thoughts are only of the very next political calculation that may advance his self-interest.
Mike's ultimate reason for abandoning the Democratic Party and stabbing all of his friends in the back lies in self-interest and a selfish pettiness. It is no secret that Mike never got along with House Democratic leadership. Whatever personality conflicts may have been behind that (and, to be fair, not all Reps who voted for Richardson as Speaker qualified for the vilification Mike received), the point remains that Mike has betrayed every principle he allegedly held dear when he ran in 2004. Every principle except protecting his own personal "power" as a State Representative. He never attempted to reach out to friends or intermediaries to work out problems with caucus leadership. Mike petulantly declared he must do his "thing" for his district, and that was the end of the discussion. The fact remains that the GOP has NO credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility. Mike's move today is of a man who cares only for himself and his personal aggrandizement. This is exactly the kind of person who destroys faith in government. It makes me sad to think how far he has fallen from the man we helped elect in 2004.
For all the Young Democrats who gave of their blood, sweat, and tears to elect Mike Jacobs, there is nothing that can return those hours to us for use in a REAL Democrat's campaign. If you gave Mike money, I urge you to ask it back. And understand that when a credible challenger is found to Mike Jacobs, the Young Democrats of Georgia will be there to work day and night to be certain that the lying snake is returned to his hole in North DeKalb. We will not forgive, and we will not forget. When Mike Jacobs' political come-uppance happens (and it will), the Young Democrats of Georgia will have its collective fingerprints all over it.
In Democratic Solidarity,
P.S. I would be remiss if I did not thank Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna and a Young Democrat for whom we can be VERY proud) for much of the language about Mike’s behavior in recent sessions.
Friday, June 08, 2007
A sermon preached by The Right Reverend Leopold Frade, Bishop of Southeast Florida, at his Annual Visitation for Confirmation on Trinity Sunday, June 3, 2007, at Trinity Cathedral, Miami
“Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
Those words come from a poem by the Canadian poet and composer Leonard Cohen. I thought that they were an appropriate way for your Bishop to be able to make you aware of the different cracks that exist at present in your church.
I don’t know if you know that one of the hurricanes the year before last caused considerable damage to the roof of our Cathedral.
Unfortunately, now we have a major crack in our roof where we can see not only the light, but even the stars and the moon.
But also you need to be aware of other cracks that at present exist in this Cathedral. That’s why it is important for you to be reminded of this poem:
“Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
I am sure you know how imperative it is to take care of this unfortunate crack in the roof of our Cathedral. It must be fixed soon, and I know that your dean is working very hard to accomplish it, but he needs your help and your money to achieve it.
I know that we have an excellent dean--we chose right--but even if some of you tend to believe it, you have to be aware that he doesn’t walk on water. Yes, trust me on this--he really doesn’t walk on the water of Biscayne Bay to get to work and back home. The dean actually drives back and forth in his car across the bridge like the rest of us mortals. He needs your help and your money to fix that hole in the roof.
Now the crack in the roof we need to fix--patch it, cover it and block the light. But there are other cracks that exist in our church of which we must be aware. We must fix the crack in our roof, but let’s be careful to leave those other necessary cracks alone, so that through them light may get in and shine to banish the darkness of our world.
I am not only talking about this Cathedral, but also about the many cracks that the Episcopal Church seems to have--or as some may perceive it, the imperfections of our Episcopal Church.
Yes, we are a Church that has many cracks. We are an imperfect church, and there are many things that someone from the outside looking in may perceive to be flaws that need to be fixed.
I am sure that some may even think that we must be the craziest bunch of believers in all of Christendom.
But that is precisely why I became an Episcopalian. That is why I left a calm, cozy, culturally friendly Protestant denomination to belong to a church where priests were being put in jail, and where bishops dared to question many things that were considered as untouchable and not for discussion.
I must have been crazy, but I have no regrets. Many people can’t understand us. I just heard a comedian saying that Episcopalians are a kind of Cliff Notes of religion, or for the youngsters here the sparknotes.com of religion.
Some people, when they look at us from the outside, think that we are just “Catholic Light” and that instead of asking our penitents to say a couple of “Hail Marys,” we suggest that they should have a couple of Bloody Marys. I wish it were that easy to be an Episcopalian! So if you think that by being confirmed or received in our church this morning you have it made, I’ve got news for you. It is not that easy to be one of us.
So I say to all of the candidates for confirmation and reception and to all of you that will witness the vows that are going to be made:
“Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
The current struggles that we are going through in our Anglican Communion are just an example of what I mean. We are being asked by our brothers and sisters of our Communion to patch the cracks that we have made. I won’t pretend that our actions have not affected the Communion as the British accented prelates stated: “The recent actions of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America have damaged the bonds of affection of the Anglican Communion.” There is no question about it, and for that we can be sorry and apologize. But the fact that we apologize doesn’t mean that we are about to fix that crack. You see, that’s how the light gets in.
Some may say that this newest crack is much worse than those that occurred in the past, but I am convinced that they are just trying to justify their prejudice. At the same time there are others that while they vilified this new group demanding their rights, they are jealous to protect their own rights and will scream holy hell if someone would treat them the same way that they treat others.
Let me give you a little background of why I say this: I became an Episcopalian almost 40 years ago because I saw in this church a group of Christians that were willing to defend justice and the rights of those being abused. For me it truly reflected what I was reading that Jesus Christ was saying in the Gospels.
I had just been asked to leave a Methodist-affiliated college in the south because of my big mouth. After the forced integration of my college, I just couldn’t understand how people who seemed to be truly devoted and committed Christians were able to insult, discriminate and even persecute Americans who happened to be black. There were black persons from other countries in that college and I never heard a complaint about them, but when the first African-American student showed up all hell broke loose.
As a foreign student, I had been raised in a different culture and I lacked those chips of selective racial prejudice in my brain. So I decided that it was OK to challenge Southern white persons from Kentucky on issues of race. Big mistake!!
That’s how I ended up in New York, and it was there at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine that I became enamored by the beautiful liturgy of our church.
It was love at first sight and there I discovered a church that didn’t ask you to leave your brain at the door, but allowed you to come in with your brain in order for you to think and reason with it; a church that besides having a firm belief in the Scriptures and a willingness to be guided by tradition, also believed that reason is a gift of God for us to use.
You see, reason is what would not allow us over 400 years ago to accept the theory of “Limbo” that Rome so assiduously taught up to a few weeks ago. Also it didn’t allow us to insist that the sun rotated around planet earth and that our planet was the center of the universe. Now, reason was also a factor that prevented us from saying dumb things like that the Teletubbie Tinky Winky was gay because of his triangular antenna, his color purple and his handbag.
Reason has helped us to recognize that Blacks and Hispanics are not inferior, that men are not superior to women and that women can and are called by God--and ordained by the church--to be deacons, priests and bishops.
What is exciting is that the Spirit of God has been active during these days and is helping us to comprehend that human beings don’t end up being gay or lesbian because they are possessed by demons or have simply chosen an “unnatural” way of life.
It was that 3-legged stool of Anglican thought, Scriptures, Tradition and Reason, that moves the members of our church to be involved in bringing justice and peace and “to respect the dignity of every human being.”
Today as we look at the photographs of marches and demonstrations during the days of the Civil Rights movement in our country, you are bound to recognize in the crowd an Episcopal priest dressed in black with a round collar around his neck. When you go through the list of people jailed, attacked and even martyred, you will find many Episcopalians, including a seminarian named Jonathan Myrick Daniels who was killed in Alabama while saving the life of a young African- American woman.
It was through the cracks that were made with blood and sweat during those days that the light of justice and racial equality got through in America.
Now we are not totally perfect ourselves, and we need to sadly accept our own sins and remember with shame that even in this Cathedral black persons were not fully welcomed until a few decades ago. But there were those among us who were willing to create cracks and made it possible for the light to get in, and the changes began to happen-- and they will continue to happen.
Some talk about the decrease in membership in our church as a symptom of our discussion on sexuality. But they forget to mention that the main exodus from our denomination was not because of Prayer Book changes or the ordination of women or the acceptance of gays and lesbians, but it was mainly due to the departure of white persons who refused to worship next to a black person who had dared to enter into their beloved homogeneous, culturally friendly environment through cracks that were being made by our clergy and laity to end segregation and discrimination.
There were other cracks in our church that were made, and through them other groups of persons that were being kept away were able to get in. It took a long time but I was there to witness it: It was in 1976--a year when I was so handsome and slim and with lots of hair-- at General Convention in Minneapolis when we voted to allow the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. Another crack was made, but you see that’s how the light gets in.
Then 27 years later I came back to Minneapolis, and by 2003 I was overweight and with very little hair. But at that General Convention another crack was made. That year the bishops and deputies consented to the election of 10 bishops, something that is a routine for us.
However, one of those bishops was the Bishop of New Hampshire, who happens to be a gay man in a committed relationship. And that’s how the light of justice got in.
And now this American church is being told by a number of persons from other cultures and nations, as well as from a small group of our own members, that we must patch the crack that occurred due to our actions. That is very easy for them to say, but if we do that, how will the light of justice get in?
I know that by refusing to patch that crack our “bonds of affection”
with some of our brothers and sisters are being strained or even broken. I know that there may even be other drastic consequences.
But every time I falter and begin to think that maybe we should compromise, I remember Jonathan Myrick Daniels.
He could have compromised and not bothered to try to register African- American voters in Alabama. He could have stayed home up north, but instead he chose to make a crack in the name of Christ at the boulders of injustice that blatantly existed in the South at that time.
Every time I falter I think of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who could have minded his own business and not bothered to challenge the boulder of apartheid in South Africa.
I am convinced that we must be willing to permit these cracks that have occurred in our church so that the light of justice can continue dwelling among us.
If we are not hypocrites and hold double standards, we must say that injustice is injustice in any way, shape or form that it may appear.
As a Hispanic I say that if I want justice and equality for those like me, then I have no business whatsoever being part of anything that seeks to deny justice and equality for others, even if those others are gays and lesbians. You should not talk about equality on issues of race and culture if you at the same time--using selected verses from the Bible--refuse justice and the full participation in the life of our church to others with a lifestyle different from yours.
You see my dear candidates, it is not that easy to be an Episcopalian. My God, even our first American bishop was refused ordination by the British because he was not going to pledge allegiance to crazy king George that Americans had just defeated in our Independence War!
God bless those Scottish Jacobites who in Aberdeen, Scotland, dared to make a crack in the Anglican Communion and consecrated our first bishop, Samuel Seabury, against the will of the powers to be at the time. That’s how the light got in and we were able to have our first American bishop.
It didn’t take long for the Brits to realize that we were here to stay, and that we were not anymore the Church of England but the Episcopal Church of these United States of America.
Now, I know that you want to be confirmed and received by me this morning, but I want to make sure you know that we really mean for you to keep the promises that you are about to make.
We really mean it when we ask you to reaffirm your renunciation of evil and to commit to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Yes, my beloved candidates and all of you present this morning in this Cathedral, you need to be aware that we really mean it when we ask all of you if you are willing to persevere in resisting evil and also if you are willing to love your neighbor as yourself.
Not some neighbors but all neighbors. Not just those who talk like you, or cook like you, or vote like you, or pray like you, or those whose affections God has wired different from yours. We really mean all.
I also want to be sure that you know the consequences of responding to the last question of the Baptismal Covenant with, “I will, with God’s help.” It’s important, because with the condition of the world we live in today, it could really make a difference for good.
That final question is going to be this:
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people? Will you?
Will you respect the dignity of every human being? Will you really do that?
Do you realize how many cracks we will have to make to be able to achieve this?
I have to admit that if I say that I believe that we must strive for peace, then I must chisel hard and make a crack at that boulder of war brought to our nation through lies and deceit. A boulder of war that brushes aside the death of over 3,000 American youngsters and now insists on a surge that will only increase the number of those killed.
If I am to declare that I must strive for justice, then I must be willing to say stop the embargo against the people of Cuba. It has failed and it only punishes the poor and the weak and not those in power in that island.
If I believe in resisting evil, then I must do something to stop the exploitation of farmworkers taking place today in Immokalee, Florida.
I must also be willing to look at immigration issues with the eyes of the one who insisted in proclaiming that we must love our neighbors as ourselves.
There are other churches in our country where blacks and Hispanics are kept away. There are quite a few other churches out there where gays and lesbians are bashed and considered evil, where war is praised and encouraged, where women are kept in their place, churches where cracks are not allowed to happen. This Cathedral is not one of them.
Now if you really insist on becoming an Episcopalian, then welcome to this church and help us to make sure that we keep some of our cracks. It’s important--you see, that’s how the light gets in.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
In order for a young democrat to go to Dallas, he or she faces the following costs:
- Convention Registration = $60
- Hotel Room (4 nights, 4 people to a room) = $155
- Travel Cost (airline, bus, or car) = $100-300
- Spending money for Dallas = $200 ($50/night)
The fundraising program we are implementing to help out with the costs of attending this great event are outlined below. We know that the costs will pose a great financial burden on many of our members, so we are holding a prize drawing fundraiser to help fund your trip!
What is the Prize Drawing and How Will it work?
Starting today, YDG is selling $10 prize drawing tickets. The ticket sales will go through Saturday, June 30th. Ticket purchasers will have a chance to win one of two domestic travel vouchers that we will be giving away. We will be drawing the tickets during a party at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta on Friday, July 13th .
Physical tickets will be sold by YDG members. We have also set it up so that people can purchase tickets online (check out www.georgiayds.org).
With the funds raised with this prize drawing, YDG is prepared to pay for your convention registration fees, as well as your hotel room. So pretty much, if you can get yourself there, then you are set!
The only way we can fund everyone the $215 subsidy (registration fees and hotel) is if you buy tickets! Contrary to popular opinion, grant funds generally cannot be spent on national convention. $10 is a bargain for a free plane trip too! Plus, your money is going to a good cause that will allow 37 Young Georgia Democrats to partake in national convention and all the fantastic grassroots training it will offer!
We are requiring everyone who plans on attending the YDA National convention to sell at least 30 prize drawing tickets between now and June 30th.
We have created a website off of the YDG website for ticket purchases. Once you send our Vice President of Finance your name, she will add it to the drop down "Sponsor a YDG Member" menu on the ticket purchase site. After that you can tell your family and friends to just go on to http://www.georgiayds.org, click on the Prize Drawing links, select you as the member they wish to sponsor, and you will be well on your way to attaining your 30 ticket sales goal!
Any questions? Feel free to contact Nicolette at anytime by email (email@example.com ) or by phone (404-538-7262) and she would be happy to answer them!
Monday, April 23, 2007
I first heard about the shootings while getting ready to leave on a business trip to Copenhagen and Croatia (where I am now). Like most people, I think my first reaction was shock. It is hard to convey just how idyllic a place Virginia Tech is to people who have not been there. Nestled in the New River Valley of southwest Virginia, Virginia Tech is an oasis, a true academic refuge. When school is not in session, the town of Blacksburg has only 10,000 residents, most of whom are connected to VT in some way. When school is in session, the population surges to nearly 40,000. In October of each year, the fall leaves hit their peak. Virginia Tech, surrounded by the Appalachian mountains, is ablaze in a glory of colors. There is a bumper sticker I remember that said, "God is a Hokie - Otherwise Why Do the Leaves All Turn Orange and Maroon in the Fall?" I was never a "mountain person" when I came to Virginia Tech, but I left one.
The buildings are all built with material from Virginia Tech's limestone quarry, and we call it Hokiestone. In the 1980s, the Board of Visitors (it's a Virginia thing....think Board of Directors or Regents) decreed that every building at Virginia Tech must have Hokiestone on its exterior. The architecture is American Gothic, and the Hokiestone gives an ancient feel to a campus that is "only" 135 years old. You can walk everywhere; indeed, parking is such a hassle that I never once contemplated moving off campus, and I only used my car to travel to Roanoke (the only gay bar for 100 miles around was there) or to go home. Otherwise, I did not need it.
So, with these cherished memories in mind, I could not contemplate the horror that visited the campus last Monday. It was incompatible with what I knew of my beloved VT. I called my friend Yonsenia, who is a professor of Art at VT, and she was fine. She does not have class on Monday, so she was not campus. She knew more information than the news was releasing, but it was a lot of rumor. She said that she heard some "Asian dude" had done the shooting.
Honestly, that made some sense to me. Virginia Tech's premier program is engineering. The sciences, the business school, and the hotel/restaurant management school are all excellent, but it is the engineering program that is world-famous. One startling fact I discovered when I went to VT was that there were more Asians on campus than African Americans. Even coming from Kentucky, I felt disoriented by the lack of black students and explosion of Asian students. The Engineering program attracts most of these Asian students, as anyone who has endured Intro to Calculus classes at VT can attest. I served on the Judicial Council as a student, and part of that was investigating charges of cheating as well as serving on student-run juries. There were several cases that came before me during my 3 years on the panel with Asian students who were in the engineering program to please their parents and were failing. The end result of cheating exposed people at their most desperate. So I figured that if an Asian was the shooter, it had to be an engineering student who had snapped under the pressure of upcoming finals. Especially knowing that Norris Hall was always known as the "Civil Engineering building" when I was a student.
That's what I get for following stereotypes! While the shooter was Asian, he was an ENGLISH major. And he was apparently a psychotic person with no real grip on reality. I took a couple of classes with two of the English professors who tried to ring the alarm bell regarding Cho's dangerous mental state. Yet, at first glance, I do not see how VT did anything wrong. His writings were disturbing, and he was a creepy person in general, but he had not made any specific threats toward people. You cannot just lock up someone because you think they MIGHT do something. More should have been done following a court's decision that Cho receive an evaluation, which apparently never happened.
That is an indictment of the piss-poor mental health system not only in Virginia but across the nation. We simply do not take mental health problems seriously, and we overburden and underfund the programs we do have. Insurance is finally starting to treat mental health as seriously as physical health. There is still a great stigma in admitting you have a problem and need help. With so many people alarmed by Cho's behavior, something should have been done. He should have been forced into treatment and suspended from school until he got it. But VT did not have the authority to do that until Cho either threatened someone (including himself) or actually DID something. Unfortunately, last Monday, he did do something....something monstrous and unimaginable to most of us.
Having this school shooting hit so close to home for me, I have been disconnected from the ensuing arguments over gun control. Being in Europe while this story plays out has been interesting, because Europeans really do think we're crazy for loving guns as much as we do. It reminded me of the relatively peaceful (albeit destructive) riots in Copenhagen a couple of months ago. No one had guns, and no one was killed. Property was destroyed, and hundreds were arrested, but not one life was extinguished. That amazed me because I knew that had this riot happened in America, it would have been a bloodbath with bullets flying. Europeans don't allow anyone who is not military or in the police force to have a gun. Their gun violence is almost nothing as a result.
Yes, I know that we have the 2nd amendment for very good historical reasons, and I support the right for law abiding, mentally and emotionally stable citizens to own firearms. I support the right to hunt and fish, although not with a machine gun. I think that criminal background checks are not enough. We need to block anyone with a history of mental illness (including depression) from owning a gun. And we should take away guns from people who develop such illnesses. I know that would proclude even me from having a gun because I have a history of depression. But I am OK with that. We can't take away all guns, but the restictions should be such that only the most stable and law abiding should be able to have them. And increase those penalities for having an illegal gun. I do not think that having students pack heat to class is the answer. It is only the most well trained who could be counted on shooting the shooter in a case like Virginia Tech's massacre. I do not know the answer to this question, but these are my thoughts right now.
Another thing hitting me hard about the Virginia Tech massacre is the murder of an RA (resident advisor) in West AJ who was killed just doing his job. My first year as an RA, I served on the 2nd floor of East AJ, which is the sister building of West AJ and the traditional dorm for band members. When Cho decided to confront and kill that girl in West AJ, the RA responded as he was taught to do, as he was expected to do. We never expect someone to have a gun. I imagine all he did was ask what was going on before Cho coldly shot him through the neck. As a member of the RA "fraternity", this death hits my soul. It could have easily been me or any of my friends coming upon a heated situation who could have been killed. We never considered that when we served as RAs. Mostly, we worried about belligerence and keeping people safe. We wanted to prevent people from having alcohol poisoning or having an accident. Murder was not something we considered. Now, future RAs will have to consider just that.
VT also hit the right notes regarding student grades. Students who cannot face going back to school can just accept their grade as it stood on Monday, April 16. Or students can submit assignments, but not take the final. Or they can go on and finish out the semester as "normal". That was a fair, compassionate answer. I'm not sure what choice I would have made; it would depend on where my grades had stood at the time of the shooting.
I do know one thing: Virginia Tech will endure and come out of this stronger. Around the world, Hokie alums are united in their grief and their love for the university. I hope the press respects the university's request to leave and let the students come back to class in peace. It will be difficlut enough to get back to normal without the world's press following every move. I would still send my own child to VT, and I would not hestitate to recommend Virginia Tech as a safe place to send anyone's child. What happened in Blacksburg could have happened anywhere. It does not matter if you are Amish and isolated from the rest of the world, or in a lilly white upper class suburb of Denver; NO ONE is safe from this kind of psychosis. When a psychotic person is in your midst, you are not safe from his/her wild behavior. I think most college students realize that what happened at VT could have happened on any campus. That is why i have hope that there will be something positive to come out of this tragedy.
News, including links to the Hokie Spirit Fund can be found at http://www.vt.edu/tragedy.