Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Talk to the TAC

The Florida primary is over! And I'm exhausted. I have taken on the civic duty of being a Technical Assistant Clerk...aka a touch-screen voting machine babysitter. At my assigned precinct on the southside of Tallahassee, I patiently sat with the Diebold machine. I greeted people as they came through the door. I smiled. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Two voters used the touch-screen machine during the 12-hour period. So, I got a lot of reading done, and made more headway on my homework.

Not to whine too much, but it's unfortunate that voters look at my machine as some alien object. It's very easy to use. And I was pleased this time that Leon County stored the machines over night in a locked cage at the polling place rather than having us TACs go to the Warehouse to pick them up and store them in our homes overnight. Anything to make the machines more secure.

Even if you don't want to use the touch-screen machine yourself, maybe you could at least go talk to the lonely TAC. Ask them to show you how they create a ballot. Make them open and close the security doors. Give us something to do!!!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Confirmed, finally

January 11, 1981. That was the day that I stood before the congregation at Christ Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, and said in a loud and clear voice that I wanted to be confirmed. I was the only one of my confirmation class to speak up, to make this a truly public statement before the Bishop, and God, that I was now putting my own stamp of approval on my baptism and affirming the desire to be marked as Christ’s own forever. I’d been to Sign of the Dove Retreat Center. I’d quizzed Rev. Gene Robinson on the meaning of “Begotten not made”, testing the priest to see if he’d try to B.S. his way out of the conversation. Instead, he leveled with me, and talked to me about faith, having faith that God existed, regardless of knowing “where God came from”. I was happy he’d really squared with me. And so, I felt ready now for my next step in my church life.

Well, kind of ready.

Shortly after my confirmation, my faith in God would be tested. A friend of our family was shot to death at the end of our street. Another friend who had cleaned our house and baby sat for me died in a car accident. And my Aunt Helen, my father’s only sibling, died of cancer of every part of her body, thanks to the neglect of her deadbeat husband. Suddenly, that whole idea of having faith in God went by the wayside. If God loved me, these things would never have happened. I felt like a fool for having bought a lie. I kept going to church and serving as an acolyte, but I refused to say any of the prayers during the service. Instead, I studied up on the burial rites. Death was more attractive than life.

The first “Godly” intervention occurred when I was a sophomore at Governor Dummer Academy. There had to be a reason why I was assigned to the school chaplain as an advisee. She wasn't my first choice as an advisor; I had wanted the English Department chairman. But, luck of the draw, I ended up with the chaplain. And a good thing, too! She was a woman determined to figure out who was this girl who avoided eye contact by pulling her long hair out from behind her ears and letting it hang in front of her face? What she discovered was that, behind the long hair, was a kid who was picked on by classmates, had a lack of faith in God, and a very strong pull toward death. The bullying was something she could watch for. The God-part was right up her alley, and she took on the challenge of trying to get me to see God as a force of good rather than evil in my life. The death-part was a little trickier. She had me agree to a contract: if I wanted to die, I needed to talk to her first.

January 6, 1984. The day I kept my word. My brain had finally arrived at the best means for me to make a final exit. The bell rang, and something kept me paralyzed. In all likelihood it was whatever life force that was still within that decided to shackle my ankles to the chair, and drop a weight in my lap. Puzzled, the chaplain inquired why I wasn’t on my way to my next class.

“Talk me out of suicide.”

That’s all I could say. At some point, I looked up at her and couldn’t discern if her eyes showed concern or fear. Today, I can’t remember the specifics of what she said to me, only that it was centered on God and working me through the thickest, darkest forest of my brain toward some kind of a clearing where light could enter.
And it bought her the time to make a phone call to my parents to let them know I needed more help than what a religion instructor at a prep school could offer.
I was diagnosed with neuro-chemical depression; thus began my two years of taking anti-depressants that made me tired and sometimes a little spacey. But I wasn’t depressed, and they kept me alive!

The chaplain kept working on the part that she could handle: God. I took her word that Jesus didn’t mean to do me harm. I was more interested in other things in the church besides which readings I wanted at my funeral. Eventually, I came around to saying the prayers during the services. And I believed that God wasn’t all that bad.

Sort of.

When I went to college, I continued going to church. It was for the social element since I was going to school half-way across the country where I knew no one. It was acceptable, as a Mizzou student, to worship on Sundays because lots of students did it. Buses would come by the dorms and take undergrads off to great, big, evangelical, fundamentalist, smack-a-queer-for-Christ churches.
There was only one Episcopal parish, Calvary, in Columbia. But there were probably a half-dozen Assemblies of God, rivaled only in number by the Baptists. The Navigators were big on campus. So were the Maranathas. In fact, it was an exchange with a Maranatha, in which we argued over whether God wrote the Bible that led to a really creepy moment in my dorm.

I’d gone out of curiosity to one of the many “Repent or Burn” lectures the Maranathas liked to put on, and had left in disgust when the preacher read from 1 Corinthians the infamous verses about “Do not be deceived: neither this person, nor that person….will inherit the kingdom of God.” The preacher specifically named “Homosexuals”, so I took off. One of the “faithful” followed me and we had a verbal spat over whether homosexuals were banned from the kingdom. The fight ended with her telling me that “God wrote the Bible” and me laughing out loud and going home. I shared with my dorm mates what had happened, and some of these women cornered me.

“God did write the Bible!” they insisted. “Are you not born again?” (Oh, brother!)

If they could have they probably would have taken me to the showers and baptized me! Calvary Episcopal never looked so sane!

But even at Calvary, life was not perfect. There were two associate rectors, one of them a woman. And there were people who refused to take communion from her. Then there was the lawyer on the softball team who was so pleased with himself because he’d successfully kept a Hospice House for AIDS patients out of a neighborhood. Suddenly, Christ Church in Exeter never looked so sane!

Tallahassee: I moved here in August 1990. Again, living somewhere where I knew no one, I turned to the church for a social network. Trouble was finding a church where I fit in. I didn’t want to be at the University chapel. I was turned off by all the talk of “families” at Holy Comforter. Church of the Advent was OK, until I realized that the attitude was “Men have their place, and women have a different place”. And it didn’t help that during the First Gulf War, Advent prayed only for the American troops. Depressed about it all, I ended up at St. John’s because it was downtown, and it was my last hope of finding a church home.
There was a woman serving as an associate. The choir sounded great. There were bells. They used incense. What was there not to love about this place?

I fell in love. And going to church wasn’t compatible, nor did it seem acceptable in my lesbian community. So I stopped going. I would return for holidays, but something strange happened. I think it was Easter when the priest giving the sermon focused on internal politics of the Church instead of the resurrection of Christ. It was really weird. A friend who sang in the choir at the time told me that things were getting a little strange at St. John’s. So, I stayed away.

But staying away from the church didn’t work for me. The years I spent in separation from the Episcopal liturgy were definitely dark years. At the times when I could have most used the solace of a sanctuary in communion with others, I instead tried to go it alone. I had no choice in a city where the Episcopal Churches gave off a feeling of coldness toward "my kind". But, unlike as a youngster, this time I did believe God was a friend and not a foe. I just wondered why the church had become so hostile toward me.

Today: I am back in the pews of St. John’s. Perhaps time, or maturity, or mentoring from a priest, or all of the above, have brought me to a greater understanding of God. Maybe I’m just hearing things differently now. Or maybe I’m finally appreciating that to live into the light brings me a better attitude, and feels better than stumbling over roots and rocks in the darkness. There’s still plenty of “noise” in the world that calls on me to cross over to “the dark side”. As long as I keep my focus where it needs to be (with the help of hymns and questions popping in my head and Rubik’s cubes) I should be better than OK. Confirmed, finally.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Call for a Shift

A quick trip over to the Episcopal Majority blog turned into a much longer time spent reading four excerpts from Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson's forthcoming book "In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God"
Here's one sample:

It’s time that progressive Christians rescue the Bible from the Religious Right, which has held it hostage and claimed it as its own private territory for far too long. It’s time that Christians and Jews actually read the holy scripture they claim as the basis of their beliefs, instead of simply believing what others tell them it says. It’s time we use reputable scholarship, sound reason, and thoughtful exploration to understand what the words of scripture meant to the person who authored them and what they meant to the people for whom they were written, before deciding whether or not those words are binding on people outside that ancient cultural context. It’s time that progressive religious people stop being ashamed of their faith and afraid to be identified with the Religious Right, and start preaching the Good News of the liberating Christ to all God’s children.

Can I hear you scream, "Amen!"??

Reading these cuttings from his book reminds me again of how fortunate I am to have known this man before he became "the gay Bishop". He speaks truth. Period. And, as one of the many New Hampshire children who passed through Sign of the Dove Retreat Center on our way to confirmation, I saw him as an honest and good man when he was simply Rev. Gene Robinson.

The book is coming out in April 2008. And, as you will read, now that New Hampshire has civil unions, the Bishop and his partner, Mark Andrew, will have their relationship duly-recognized by the state in a ceremony on the steps of the Capitol in June. Blessings!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wants and Needs

Next month marks a “milestone” birthday for me. I will be 40! Yup, I can see it now: the Valentine’s Day heart with “Lordy, lordy, look who’s 40!” There will be black balloons, the doctor telling me to get a mammogram. “Waiter, I’ll have some Doan’s pills with my calcium!”

Seriously, I am not freaking out over entering into another decade of life. Instead, I am taking pause to reflect on where I’ve been and thinking, “Damn! I’m amazed that I’m still here to even see 40!” With that attitude comes a healthy (I think) understanding that having a life, a roof over my head at night, and an interest in learning is all I really need or want at this time.

OK, I take that last bit back. If I could get what I want it would be Yamaha V-Star or Harley Sportster 1200 motorcycle, and health insurance. But, as the great rock ‘n roll philosopher Mick Jagger once sang, “You can’t always get what you want”.

And so, for my 40th birthday, I am throwing what I call my “Big Heart” party in which I am asking people to forego gifts…serious and silly alike….and instead consider placing their spare change, some dollars or a check into one of four chambers of a big heart. The chambers represent four non-profit causes that, in their own ways, are helping to create a world where those of us of the “non-straight” community can live in peace. I’ll bundle the boodle and send it to the designated organizations. On my list of causes: Fairness for All Families, This Way Out, PFLAG’s Straight for Equality, Queer As Faust Festival.

Interestingly, I have received two very different responses to this idea. There are those who think it is a brilliant way to ring in a big birthday. And then there are those who just don’t get it.

“You don’t want anything?!”
“Just give whatever money you’d have normally spent on a gift to one of my causes!”

This is met with grumbling, harrumphing, and questions of whether I’m in my right mind. I assure anyone who thinks I’ve flipped my lid: if wanting to turn my 40th birthday into a fundraiser for LGBT-friendly groups is a sign of insanity, then Baker Act me! I’d rather be crazy this way than to accumulate more material possessions. And that gets to need. I don't need anything because I feel my needs are being met at this time.

Now, about those causes:

Fairness is working to defeat the proposed “anti-gay marriage amendment”. That amendment may NOT make it on the ballot, and I think Fairness and its campaign to educate people early on about this hateful proposal has helped to disrupt the homophobes petition drive.

This Way Out is very close to my inner reporter. This half-hour weekly program isn’t heard in Tallahassee, but I used to eagerly await it every Wednesday on KOPN in Columbia, Missouri, as a college student coming out in the late 80s. It was my one and only connection to the greater world of gay people, my best friend on the radio.

PFLAG has been an invaluable help to my family, especially my mom. This organization has aided countless families navigate the topsy-turvy emotions of learning they have a loved one who is queer, and channel their anger toward political action. “Straight for Equality” is their new campaign to give our allies the tools to talk more freely and openly about the dangers of discrimination.

Queer As Faust Festival: what can I say? Can anyone be as queer as Faust?? We are such a strange lot of people. And we aren’t rich, and yet we have a desire to put on a phat festival for Gay Pride month. Besides doing a cabaret performance, we’re looking to bring in guest performers, speakers, and movies that talk to the many diverse elements of our community.

If I can garner financial support for any and all of the above, I will have my needs and wants met for my 40th! Happy Birthday to me.


Yay! I'm back online at home!! C'mon back, good readers! I'll have new stuff up here in the next couple of days as a formulate my thoughts into coherent short essays.

See what's to come!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Intense Frustration and What Not

Hello to those out there reading postings in the blogosphere!

I have been off-line, and remain off-line, due to a computer virus, so I have to resort to coming to the public library in order to read and send email, and post to my blog.

A friend forwarded an interesting article about Christians and Pagans working together toward understanding. Fascinating that the pastor in the article was a member of the Church of the Foursquare. If you aren't familiar with them....they are definitely of the babbling-in-tongues variety of Christianity. Amazing that an evangelical would stretch a hand toward Pagans!

Until next time....or whenever I get back to the library.....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Paying Attention

If you have ever played with a Rubik’s Cube, you know how fascinating and annoying they can be. You twist and turn, hoping to figure out how to line up all the colors. Some of my friends are able to decipher the proper turns in no time. I, on the other hand, have yet to make one of these toys work. But it doesn’t stop me from playing with one!

In many respects, I’d say that my new set of instructions to “pay attention” feels a little bit like fooling around with a Rubik’s cube. “Pay attention” has led to a lot of inquiry about all kinds of things, not the least of which is God and my relationship to God, and how that relationship manifests itself in all aspects of my life.

Like the hymns that would haunt me incessantly, I find myself pondering the words of the Book of Common Prayer at times when I really should be deciding if I have time to hit Publix when I pick up the laundry. I think about the richness of the language as if they were the reds, blues, greens of the Rubik’s cube. I find myself studying the phrases we say, such as this one which is part of the closing prayer:

“Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love
and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart”.
For me, there’s a lot in that statement!

First off is the idea that now that we’ve spent an hour together in common worship and receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist, it’s time to take what has been given to us…from the lessons read, the sermon preached, the spiritual food, etc…and go out there into the big, bad world, as peaceful beings and live out our lives and go into our workplaces to do God’s will. How do we do that? Through “strength and courage”.
I know, speaking only as an authority on my own heart and conscience, I feel that is a very tall order! To do God’s will, I think, means to be good to people, and treat them the way you’d want to be treated. Do I do that all the time? No. Sometimes, I fall short. Sometimes, I get pissed off. But generally, I do try to treat all people with the respect and love I would like to see offered back to me. As the saying goes in Buddhism, “Be the light you wish to see in the world”.

Ah, yes: light. I’ve paid close attention, too, to how often there are references in the Biblical readings that draw the distinction between lightness and darkness. The first Sunday in Advent had a reading from Romans where the talk is of putting on “an armor of light” and leaving the darkness behind. I can feel my brain trying to arrange the blocks of my Rubik’s cube as I ponder all that this statement could mean and what it has meant for me! I have made a conscious effort to move out of darkness and into the light. And by doing so, I have sensed a change in my approach to the world. If I trust, and allow myself to journey along a path toward a light as bright as the eastern star, and accept that the light itself is like armor, I feel a helluva lot better than when I brood, and drape myself in the beliefs that have kept me in darkness for years and years. I can accept love, and I can give it back to others. And that certainly makes my job as a massage therapist much easier.

OK, great: but this is all a bunch of Christian blah blah blah, right? Well, my belief system is Christ-centered, yeah. But really, that gets to another point: I am afraid human beings have screwed up on God. “Christianity” and “Christian principles” are not bad; its how some of God’s fan club have gone about practicing them (or not!) that has made it all seem like blah blah blah. It is empty rhetoric if somebody mouths the words in a church on Sunday, and then heads out into the world and uses those words to suppress other people, or hold themselves out there as the moral superior to everyone else (the whole “Believe in Jesus or you’re going to hell!”) I don’t think people have to accept Christ as savior in order to do the basic of living a life that is full of lightness, and treating people right. I can’t speak for atheists or agnostics, but I would say that I think it’s easier to achieve a life of love, light and laughter, if you recognize that there is a “something” of universal nature and infinite proportions that is out there keeping the wick lit on the candle for us to find our way home.

Even without practicing any religion, I find that in alternative health fields, such as massage therapy, the basic idea of “treat people with love and respect the same way you’d want to be treated” informs much of the work. Couple this with the mindfulness, recognizing the interconnectedness of all things in the world, and you have a system of being that is bringing you back to a relationship with a “higher conscience”.

I doubt that I will ever get all the colors to match up in my Rubik’s cube as I ponder and pay attention to things in the world and the words I say on a Sunday and what they mean and how to apply them in my life. But then, I never have gotten one of those cubes to come all together before, and that doesn’t stop me from playing!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Let's pause for a moment...

....and reflect on the wiggy world of Republican politics. So far, the G-O-P primaries have given us victories for Huckabee, McCain and now Romney. There are two more contests coming up (Nevada and South Carolina) before the Florida primary on the 29th. The fact that Republicans are heading in different directions depending on where you are in the country could mean lots of things. Romney winning Michigan isn't *entirely* a surprise: his daddy was the Governor there. But I have to laugh that the oh-so-organized and well-oiled machinery of the Grand Ol' Party isn't showing a clear leader yet. I'm sure Republicans will try to spin this as proof that they have a lot of candidates to choose from, and they're just all so "very good".
I'm waiting to see what the next two primaries give us: maybe Fred Thompson will win South Carolina? Ron Paul takes Nevada? Hahahahahahahaha!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Leather and Grace

I was walking into St. John’s one Sunday recently and was stopped by one of the chalice bearers, a nice guy who used to bring the Eucharist to my dad at Alterra.

"You can't come to church dressed like that," he joked. "Where do you think you are? The Mickee Faust Club?"
What this man was referring to was my black leather biker jacket, originally purchased to authenticate my portrayal of Skinhead Hamlet, but has since served me well as a way to stay warm in winter, especially riding the Ruckus to church in the morning.

“I’m bringing Faust to church with me!” I kidded. Unfortunately, I think he thought I meant I was really bringing the Faustkateers to church, which excited him as a fan of our madcap cabaret. But the likelihood of Faustkateers waking up before noon on Sunday is slim, and to go to a church service….hmmmm….what’s the definition of heresy?

In my own way, though, I am bringing a representation of Faust to church in that I’m there, in my leather jacket and flat-top haircut sitting next to my mom, kneeling in prayer, singing the hymns and receiving the sacraments that unite me with others in the Body of Christ. While Faust is not (despite rumors) a “gay troupe”, we do have a large number of queer members including your’s truly. And so, by being at St. John’s on any given Sunday morning, I hold that space of being “dyke in pew eleven”.

No one is more surprised than me to be making a regular practice of attending services in the Episcopal Church. This was not something I had planned to do. I had become quite comfortable letting the church go. It had become foreign to me, and a bit of a combatant during the earlier part of this decade when priests here in Tallahassee were frothing at the mouth about the election of a “gay” bishop in my native New Hampshire. I was angry and deeply hurt by the snarling and sniping and talks of schism. I could not understand what had happened to the Christian denomination that I was raised in, and had experienced as a place where priests and bishops would sneak in comments about the need to stop the arms race…while some of the congregants wondered if this leftist’s sermon was going to mess up their tee time. We had lived in harmony on Sundays, Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, gays and straights. What was wrong now?

To get a really good grasp on that, you would need to read the blogs of others much more caught up in the politics of the church than I am! You’ll find a link to Mark Harris’ Preludium at the bottom of this blog page where you can read up on all the noise in the Anglican Communion. But if I were to summarize the “what went wrong” I’d tell you it is a long-simmering discontent among those who feel they’ve lost control because they have to share the altar with women, and they want to gather up all the marbles (and church property) and take it with them back to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer days. Gay people just fall along the continuum of “others” who “they” don’t like. And, of course, “they” like to quote the Bible as their proof that I don’t belong. Frequently cited passages include the one from Leviticus 18:22 (“thou shalt not lie with a male as a woman; it is an abomination”)…which of course is one of the many abominations in Leviticus. You also shouldn’t wear cotton and polyester, but don’t tell “them” that! And the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is always handy…even though that had more to do with hospitality, and let’s face it: the issue there was homosexual rape, not sex between consenting adults. And, if you read it, Lot’s answer to keeping the two visitors to Sodom safe from assault was to say, “Hey, don’t rape these guys! I have a couple of daughters you can defile!” (Nice, eh?!)

Interestingly, none of those who would reject me and turn me away from the doors of the church ever quote from the gospels. Perhaps that’s because Jesus doesn’t have anything to say about gay people. The God that I believe in wants us to come home, like in the parable of the prodigal son. Come home to a feast even though we are flawed.

So, why am I going to church? It started with my dad’s death. The day after he passed away, someone inserted the quarter into the jukebox in my head and I started hearing Episcopal hymns. I figured these were meant to guide me, and especially guide me in helping to make decisions for what funeral music we would use. People cringed when I mentioned “I Bind Unto Myself Today” (even though I could hear my dad’s voice singing that one!) Certainly, “The Strife is O’er”, an Easter standard in Exeter, was perfect for his funeral in both New Hampshire and Florida. Dad’s Tallahassee service was on November First, All Saint’s Day, and quickly I picked up “For All the Saints”, which then looped itself for several days in a row, exchanging places with “God is Working His Purpose Out”.

Maddening doesn’t quite capture how I was feeling about all this, and I wondered what the point was of the hymns. I attended church on November 4th to carry a banner made in memory of my father as part of the All Saint’s Sunday processional at St. John’s. That same day, there were baptisms. I have always liked the baptismal covenant in the Book of Common Prayer because it lays it out, in call and response form, the beliefs and the practices of Episcopalians as captured in the Apostles’ Creed. And, of course, I got whalloped with the sound of “For All the Saints” one more time…just to make sure it didn’t fall off the pop charts in my brain!

OK, so I’d done all the obligatory “going to church” that needed to be done. Time to get back to my life of leisure on Sunday mornings……


The hymns kept going. In fact, they became ever-present. They played in the morning when I woke up. They played in the afternoon while I ate lunch. They were spinning around and around as I went to bed…ready to greet me again the next morning. They were Easter hymns, Advent songs, fraction anthems, service music from Morning Prayer: you name it! If it was in my experience of the Episcopal Church, I was hearing it! It was bugging me. But the more I tried to blast it out with something else, the more I’d hear:
Crown him with many crowns
The Lamb upon his throne
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns
All music but its own!
(O, the irony!)

Saturday night, November 10th, I went to bed with a struggle. Something inside was telling me the omnipresent hymns meant I needed to go back to St. John’s for church in the morning. And the other something inside me was saying, “That’s crap!” So, I thought I would sleep on it, and see what happened. Sunday morning, a voice in my head, strong and authoritative, boomed: Show up!!
There was no room for argument. No place for me to offer a “Yes, but…” I was under orders.

I went, and I found as I sat in the service that I had an overwhelming sense of “I belong here”. As I sang hymns, I couldn’t believe the fullness of my own voice (is that really me? This has got to be Memorex!). As I listened to the lessons, I realized that “showing up” meant much more than being a body in a pew. I had to turn on the lights in my house, and bring my spirit and my mind with me into the sanctuary. And as I was fed with the “spiritual food” of the Eucharist, I had this idea that I was getting what I would need to carry me forward to “show up” in my whole life, not just to church on Sunday.

The hymns are starting to become a little less frequent now. And “show up” has given way to a new mantra: “Pay attention!”

We’ll make that the subject of another blog! Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Poetic re-entry

Hello whoever is out there reading my thoughts in the blogosphere! I'm baaaack!

I didn't have time, nor much inspiration, to write anything in advance of my monthly foray down to Gainesville. But a weekend in my class has reconnected my brain with my fingers. So what I will share with you is the poem that came to me when I was on my way to the school on Sunday morning:

To be known is to allow all that is within you
to also live outside of you.
To remove the uniform, unveil the eyes.
To allow light into the shadows of your heart,
and air to flow freely through your body.
To be known is exposure of the soul
to a trust of universal love and unconditioned good.
To be seen in all beauty and imperfection and still deemed worthy.
To be known is redemption.
Step out into the light, and laugh out loud!

Laughing out loud is a great elixir for me. Try it out some time and see how it feels in your body!
Lots more to come.....stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New Hampshire Weighs In

Yay! The New Hampshire primary is over!
Now, all the candidates will scurry southward and westward to convince other people to vote for them. And they are likely all breathing a sigh of relief that they’re finally getting away from those pesky Granite Staters who ask too many questions, and won’t let them give their glib, polished answers, and show them their slick TV ads that say absolutely nothing. Running for president in New Hampshire is not easy!
I’ve been surprised to see the Associated Press headline declaring McCain and Clinton’s victories as “upsets”. All the news I was hearing from my on-the-ground sources (aka my family) is that both McCain and Clinton had been leading in the polls up there. Now, I know post-Saturday’s debate, Barack Obama enjoyed a surge of support. And if he had won, that would have been impressive. The fact that he and Clinton ran neck and neck all night speaks to a New Hampshire electorate that, for all anyone wants to say is not representative of America, does show that there is a desire among Democrats to see something very different in the country’s leadership. Face it: a woman or a black man leading our nation would be a huge change!
Much was made of Hilary Clinton becoming tearful on Monday. Tears are often confused as a sign of weakness in a person. I think people who don’t or won’t cry are deluding themselves into thinking they’re stronger than they really are. Tears help to wash away fears, and water our joys! And, given the destruction wrought on this nation by Dumbya and Darth Vader, we could all stand to have a good cry!
I know Richardson went back to New Mexico to do the business of being Governor, and likely re-evaluate his run for President. I really will be sorry to see him go if he drops out. I started to take a liking to him. But I’m paying attention to the words and actions of the other Democrats…especially Clinton and Obama.
And as for the Republicans…thanks New Hampshire! You independent-minded, Live Free or Die-types threw a bunch of tacks in the road and punctured the wheels of the Huckabee Humvee of Hating Homosexuals! His victory in Iowa sent a chill down my spine. I’m very pleased to see that, again, you showed the nation that, in New Hampshire, people who want to pummel other people with the Bible don’t go very far. And you put Mitt “What’s my position today?” Romney in his place. We’ll see what happens next in South Carolina. Apparently, McCain is going to make an appeal to evangelical voters. Ha, ha, ha! That’ll be interesting to see. I think it’s a lost cause myself. Huckabee’s Humvee of Hate will probably be a good sell in a state that harbors Bob Jones University. C'mon people: prove me wrong!
Florida votes on January 29th. Good luck to us!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Wade in the Water

Wade in the water
Wade in the water
Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water
--traditional song performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock

I’ve alluded to this already, this idea that I’m on some kind of a river trip that (so far) hasn’t felt like white water rapids, but definitely has a strong current that keeps me moving. There are days when I try to pull myself out of this river, and I reach out for a branch along the bank, only to have the wind blow “just so” keeping me from getting a grasp. I go between a feeling of allowing myself to just "be" in this current and float along on this trip because to swim against the tide results in a tiring struggle, and a distinct understanding that I’m not in control of the journey. But then, when I've resolved to stay in the current, I see another branch, and I remember that I fear getting my head underwater, and I so reach toward the bank again so I can get ahold of a tree limb, scramble back up the water’s edge and go back into the forest.
And then the breeze comes, the branch moves, the water’s current speeds up just enough to prevent me the escape.
In this sense, this is how I believe God is “troubling” my water. Webster’s dictionary notes as its first definition of trouble: “disturb in the mind; worry, annoy”. I have felt changed in the past few months since my father’s death. I feel as though his death was the initial plunge into the river and it’s caused me to re-examine life, my life. And when you start shifting and changing your being and how you are in the world…well, for me at least, this has brought about some “troubling in the mind”. The trouble has come in the way of questions: what I should be doing with my life? Have I used all my talents to their fullest? What more am I supposed to do? And where is this river going? Is there a waterfall ahead and I’m headed for a plunge?
With these questions has come a jukebox of (I suppose) theme songs for the river trip. Most of these tunes are straight out of the Episcopal Hymnal (do you know what it’s like to wake up with “For all the saints” spinning over and over in your head?!) I was relieved this morning when I didn’t have a hymn on the brain. As I contemplated the spacey new age song that was there, I had an image of the number "515". I thought, “Oh, great: I’m sure that’s “God is working his purpose out” again!” When I looked it up in the hymnal, it was much more rattling: a tune I’m not sure that I know, but the first verse I believe was the point of the "515" message:
Holy Ghost, dispel our sadness;
Pierce the clouds of nature’s night;
Come thou source of joy and gladness,
Breathe thy life, and spread thy light.
From the height which knows no measure,
As a gracious shower descend,
Bringing down the richest treasure we can wish,
Or God can send.
For me, this feels like the hymn should be punctuated with a “So there!”
The river takes me along another turn, continuing on this long, unhurried drifting in the sunshine. And the warmth I’m feeling from the suns rays reminds my "troubled" mind that this is a much better, happier place than where I’ve been.
I’m beckoned to relax.
Trust the tide.
It’s OK.

Got Change?

In an effort to be a responsible voter, I sat here in front of the computer last night watching the online feed from WMUR-TV in Manchester, NH, of the presidential candidates debate. I didn't watch much of the first one because, as I've already said, the likelihood of me voting for one of the Republicans in the primary is nill. But I did see the moment when ABC News moderator Charlie Gibson called all the candidates running for president to the stage, so New Hampshire (and anyone else not watching the Steelers-Jaguars game) could see everyone with any shot in hell of becoming president.
I also saw where Sen. John McCain turned to former MA Governor Mitt Romney and said he really was a "candidate of change"--a dig at Romney's ever-in-flux positions on a myriad of issues.
Change, of course, became the word du jour for the Democratic debate. Obama is an agent for change, John Edwards is passionate about change, Hilary is a change and has been a change. But it was New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson who noted that while change is great, one shouldn't want change...without experience. And that gets to the crux of where I am, as an undecided independant voter.
Let's face it: we all want a change from Dumbya (the 28-percent or however little it is now that still believes the Squatter in the White House is doing a good job be damned!)
But because idiot and his goon squad have made such a huge mess of things with our foreign policy and at home, I want the next President to be somebody who sees the problems and has the background, the knowledge, and the ability to make the changes necessary to repair our bruised relationships with the rest of the world, and close the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in this country.
I'll be interested to see what happens Tuesday in my native state. And I hope that Bill Richardson sticks around if for no other reason than he was the one person on the stage at last night's debate who said what I was thinking.
That's an observation, not an endorsement!
Oh, and somebody please help Charlie Gibson with fact-checking! When he suggested that a married couple teaching at St. Anslem's College in Manchester would be in the $200,000 income bracket, I laughed! Did he forget where he was? Did he think he was sitting in a studio in NYC? It's so cute when the national media tries to "localize".

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Silly Season in Iowa

Ben Sargent, like Pat Oliphant, is one of my favorite editorial cartoonists. I think this one says it all. Can't wait to see how many of the candidates will bring their shovels and ice picks to New Hampshire next Tuesday!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

N.H. Civility, Catholic uproar

Today, I will wear my University of New Hampshire sweatshirt, and my Exeter T-shirt and my sneakers purchased in North Conway, NH. Why? Because my home state has done right by its lesbigayt population. Below is the AP wire story on the first civil unions in Granite State history. And, of course always in the interest of fairness and balance, you will see the reporter included that a Maniac crossed over into Concord to report back to other Maniacs on what "those people" are doing. Here's AP's story:
CONCORD, N.H. - Dozens of gay and lesbian couples entered into civil unions in New Hampshire in the early moments of New Year's Day as a new state law legalized the partnerships after midnight.
Organizers said they checked in 37 couples for an outdoor ceremony on the plaza of the New Hampshire Statehouse — the building where the law was adopted and signed in 2007. Participants bundled up against below-freezing temperatures.
"We've been together 20 years; we've been waiting for this moment for 20 years; finally the state will recognize us as we are," said Julie Bernier, who posed for photos on the Statehouse steps with partner Joan Andresen before the ceremony. Bernier and Andresen, who both work at Plymouth State University, never sought a commitment ceremony or other symbolic recognition of their relationship before Tuesday.
"I didn't believe in doing it until it meant something," Bernier said.
As ceremonies go, the outdoors event that began at 11 p.m. Monday was equal parts political rally, party and personal triumph.
"We really didn't believe that we'd be able to see this accomplished within one year but it has happened," state Rep. Jim Splaine, a sponsor of the civil unions bill, told the cheering crowd of about 200. "One thing we have to keep in mind is that there is much more to do. We have to continue the journey to make sure that we have marriage equality, full marriage equality — with the word marriage — soon."
New Hampshire's civil unions law — enacted by the Democrat-dominated Legislature early last year and signed by Democratic Gov. John Lynch in May, gives same sex couples the same rights, responsibilities and obligations of marriage without calling the union a marriage. New Hampshire is the fourth state in the nation to allow civil unions.
"We are a citizen legislature and we legislated this into being," said state Rep. Gail Morrison, a Democrat and co-organizer of the event who entered into a civil union with her longtime partner.
John Davey and Mark Brodeur brought gold wedding bands to exchange during their ceremony. Together 10 years since meeting online, Davey, 34, and Brodeur, 48, held a commitment ceremony with friends several years ago, but became the first couple to seek a civil union license in their hometown of Stratham when they became available last month.
"That was just for to say that we loved each other, that we're committed," Davey said of the commitment ceremony. "This is to show the world this is who we are, this is finally recognized in New Hampshire."
There were no protesters at the Statehouse, though one man, Michael Hein, said he drove 180 miles from Augusta, Maine, so he could "report to the people of Maine that this is going on next door." Hein also passed out statements from his group, The Christian Civil League of Maine, which denounces homosexuality.
"Without our vigilance in Maine, (civil unions are) something that could occur as soon as next year," Hein said.
After making brief group vows together, couples walked through an archway decorated with rainbow ribbons and a "just married" banner to meet officiants for individual ceremonies. As they walked through, fireworks from the city's New Year's celebration lit up the sky.
New Hampshire follows Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey in allowing civil unions. Massachusetts is the only state that allows marriage. New Hampshire estimates that as many as 3,500 to 4,000 civil unions will be performed this first year.

Meanwhile, in Spain, the socialist government there has not only legalized gay marriage, but has loosened the laws on divorce to make it easier for Spaniards to end their commitments. Pictures from the Associated Press show the streets of Madrid mobbed with angry Catholic protestors claiming the Christian family in Spain is split...indicating that as we celebrate the legal recognition of lesbigayt couples uniting in marriage, we still face a powerful Pope-driven protest that wants to keep queer affection "the love that dares not speak its name". Floridians certainly will get a taste of this in 2008 with an anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot. It will be up to all of us, Christians and non-Christians of all stripes, to counter the hatred of gays, and allow some of us the dream that one day, Florida might be more like New Hampshire in more ways than being a state without an income tax!

Here Comes the Silly Season!

Congratulations! We’ve started another year on the Gregorian calendar…which means we have just one more year of Bush occupation in the White House, and a long road ahead of political punditry and (no doubt) stupidity as the media gives us front row seats at presidential debates and what-not.

I am sure some of you have made up your mind about which person you would most like to see attempt to undo the damage done by Dumbya and his goons. I have not. I know I am only interested in the Democratic candidates as I think the Republican Party was hijacked a longtime ago by the radical right, and what I’ve heard from most of the GOP field indicates that they’re all vying for the right-wing of the party. The bald eagle needs two wings to fly! And that goes for those on the far-left of the Democratic Party, too!!

Politically, I am liberal. Not extremely liberal, but enough that I have no home in the GOP of the current day. Perhaps back at its founding with President Abraham Lincoln, I would have fit in. I think slavery is wrong, and I have dealt with Southerners hissing, “Yankee!” at me (just as long as we’re talking about regions of the country and not baseball allegiances!). But the Grand Ol’ Party has shoved its historical underpinnings into the attic to gather dust, and I want no part of their hatred and distrust for “the others”.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party frustrates and annoys me. It has always held itself out there as the alternative to the mean-spirited, anti-little-guy Republicans. And yet, so often when the Democrats are faced with making a difficult decision and standing up for something like rights of gay Americans to be allowed to pursue life, liberty and happiness….they tremble, they crumble, and they allow the bullies to get their way. Hell, some of them even help the bullies get in a few good kicks to the head! I’m still disappointed in the way they all rolled over and played dead when Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia were nominated to the US Supreme Court. And don’t get me started on this current bloody war in Iraq that I knew was so plainly wrong-headed from my seat in Tallahassee, and yet so many of the Democrats, fearing that they’d be called un-patriotic or un-American, gave the administration (and Haliburton) carte blanche to go to war.

I’m an independent. I think the two-party system isn’t working. We need to establish a way to let third, fourth, and fifth party candidates compete fairly for our votes. Maybe then, the Democrats will refine their focus and stick to who they (supposedly) are, and the Republicans can drive themselves further into obscurity…or at least over the right-sided guardrail into the pit below.

I will vote in our Primary. I will be forced to change my registration, but I will vote for a Democrat. I just don’t know who yet. And I may not know until I’m sitting with my ballot in front of me. I hope that when I do cast my vote, I can feel as though I’m actually voting for someone as opposed to against their opponent!