Category Archives: World News

When is it ENOUGH for YOU?

13 June 2016

I had my first radiation treatment today.  I will go every weekday for the next three weeks. When walking into the facility, my beautiful wife reached out to hold my hand – and I was nervous, in a way that I haven’t been in a long time.  It reminded me of all of the times that we have gone dancing, or to play Gaybingo, here in Dallas, or out to the theater in NYC.  In those moments, we are safe (or so we think). 13394187_10153754358297309_8892603861900442623_nWe can securely hold hands, dance together, share a kiss. Yesterday, in the early morning hours, a deranged man with assault weapons stormed an Orlando nightclub, filled with members of the LGBT community, along with their friends, allies, and club employees. Those who were at the club, Pulse, this past weekend were in a safe, secure space where they could be themselves without fear. Have you ever felt afraid to show love or affection towards the one that you love in public? Every time I think of it, I shudder, because that could have been US, pre-baby days when we went dancing more often, or went out to socialize with friends for a drink at one of our “safe havens.” It has sickened me to see tweets from not only high profile figures like Dan Patrick or Donald Trump, hours after a massacre, using phrases like “you reap what you sow” or blaming current administration. It has sickened me even more to see people I know – people who are supposedly my friends that care about me – posting similar “reap what you sow” statements. It’s too much, and I almost just. can’t. even.

13435536_10153751544867309_7148680355060444820_n

When is it ENOUGH for YOU?

What the hell is wrong with people? This massacre of human life did not happen as a result of our current political administration – how ridiculous is it that anyone would even utter those sentiments?!  It isn’t the parents’ fault. It isn’t because “God has been taken out of schools” – I NEVER prayed in school growing up. It is unbridled, unmitigated and uncontrolled HATRED.  It was not carried out by someone in our country illegally – this was a US citizen, born in New York.  It was not carried out by someone who conducted a back-alley gun purchase with no criminal background check – this was a military grade assault weapon that was purchased legally through a FLAWED system. If background checks came back clear (and federal background checks were obviously NOT done, or done correctly), then something is seriously wrong, considering the murderer had a history of domestic violence and had been investigated by the FBI not once, but at least twice; yet he still was able to not only purchase the murder weapon, but also hold a job in security.  I don’t really care anymore if I piss someone off with my distaste for guns – enough is ENOUGH.  Something MUST be done, and NOW!  I see all of the screaming that Obama and Hillary are trying to take away guns, and second amendment bullshit – but have yet to see any evidence of such attempts to take away weapons OR rights.  Just because someone states that there needs to be gun reform, that doesn’t equate to “taking away my guns!”  Just today, I read an article of a mom in Philadelphia who had the ability to purchase one of these heinous weapons of mortal combat in SEVEN MINUTES. Yes, you read that correctly. SEVEN minutes. No waiting period – HA! That is laughable! I want to know how in the hell that is possible! I want to know how a 20 year old kid with an expired driver’s license was able to also go and buy one of these weapons in FIVE MINUTES?! THIS. THIS is part of the huge overlying problem.  A very, very flawed system for background checks that is the biggest joke that any of us have ever seen! So yes, as Samantha Bee has said on her show this week, we DO want to take away your guns, if they are military grade assault rifles! So come on people, how can you see children get gunned down at school, or a nightclub full of people be systematically murdered by the spray of bullets from an assault weapon that only belongs in a military combat situation?!  When is it going to be ENOUGH for everyone?  sandyhook-heart

 

Twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook obviously wasn’t enough.  Forty-nine more people are dead today, and more than that are injured, some may not recover, but all are never to be the same – is this not enough?  Do these lives not matter as much because many of them were LGBT?  People screaming back and forth at each other angrily about their stance on guns, or radicals, or LGBT citizens does nothing but create more noise, overtaking the sound of the tears and sorrow for those who were lost.  Is today the day that you, or I, have to be right? We may not ever agree on who is right, but I hope we can agree that it is most definitely ENOUGH! Those of us who feel this pain for our brothers & sisters who perished, who feel the outrage at the loss of life being overshadowed by arguments about politics or gun control; we still see you, the silent ones who normally pray for every tragedy or post your condolences when the unthinkable happens. We see you and notice the absolute absence of commentary from you on THIS particular tragedy – what is THAT about?   13407221_10153450633247820_179011674951000247_n

When is it ENOUGH for you?

Hatred for that which is different from ourselves can take on an ugly life of its own.  It seems that somewhere along the path in the life of these terrorists, this kind of hatred became perfectly acceptable. Most of us, civilized human beings, are mortified by the atrocities of the Holocaust during WWII, asking over and over why more people didn’t step in and stop the systematic murders of millions.  We are appalled when we hear of those who stood by and let it happen, not willing to step out of their fear and stand up to the obvious wrong that was happening before their very eyes. But that was something in our history books, right?  Yet here we are again, only the murders aren’t by the millions, in another country out of sight.  It’s 26 here, 50 there, a high school or a movie theater in Colorado. When WE see hate directed towards another, and we say nothing, then WE are saying that we are okay with it. When WE see hate physically manifested towards another, and we take no action, then WE are saying that we are okay with it. When WE hear a teen call another faggot, or tell them that they’re “gay” when they really mean “dumb or stupid,” and WE don’t call them out on it, then the message we give is that we don’t have a problem with that kind of hate speech. When is it ENOUGH for YOU?  Will it be enough when it’s YOUR child, YOUR brother or sister, YOUR childhood best friend who was dancing in a nightclub, but then is on your television screen as just one among the bodies? Will you be arguing about your guns then? Will you be pointing fingers at politicians then? Or will you be face to the ground, arms around a stranger who mourns next to you, because THEIR person silently lays among the carnage next to YOUR person? When is it ENOUGH for YOU?

13442436_10154163833642649_7496342235507365455_o
Today I laid on a table in a cold room, alone, with a mask locked tight around my face, while a huge machine clicked and buzzed while circling my head, giving me the radiation that we hope will keep me alive. FullSizeRender-7 I had to remain completely still. I fought the urge to scream, to freak out in claustrophobic madness. I fought the tears as panic tried to take over. I gritted my teeth in anger, knowing that if I don’t do this, my chances of winning – of living – become markedly lower. FullSizeRender-8 

 

 

Today, fifty people will also lie on a table in a cold room, alone – no mask on their face needed. They will remain completely still, too; no fighting panic like they surely experienced during the moments before they died.  I cannot imagine the terror that went through their hearts and minds during those final moments.  They no longer have the urge to scream, or cry, or panic; their lives were cut short by a terrorist who hated them, just for BEING. Is this too harsh for you to read?  When is it ENOUGH for YOU?? Most of the victims were young, with a full and productive life ahead of them.  Some were coupled, some were not.  Some were out, others were not.  Some were there with friends, others were there with a supportive parent.  But rather than give this terrorist a minute of time learning his background – hell, even learning his name – I choose to remember as many of the names of those who perished that I possibly can.  I will try to remember their stories, as I hear them.  

Like Amanda Alvear. She was 25 and was at the club Pulse with her best friend, celebrating having lost 200 pounds. And Brenda McCool, age 49. She was a two-time cancer survivor.  She raised twelve children, and was at Pulse dancing with one of her sons, who survived the shooting, but had to watch his mother die. Stanley Almodovar III was 23 and a pharmacy tech. Cory Connell, age 21, was leaving the club with his girlfriend when they came upon the shooter.  He was a college student who hoped to become a firefighter.  

They were all people just like you and I. Instead of everyone standing around with raised fists in the air, angry and indignant about who or what to blame, why don’t we learn what we can about the only people who really matter in all of this.  Click on their name; if there is an available profile, the link will take you to it:

 

When is it ENOUGH for YOU?

 

 

Advertisements

When the Laughter Dies Down

As many people around the globe, I am still reeling from the shocking news of actor Robin Williams’ death, apparently by his own hand. I hear of celebrities passing, and it rarely has the impact that this one has had on me. Perhaps it was my beloved memories of his films throughout my lifetime, starting with his first appearances of Mork from Ork on Happy Days when I was just in elementary school. Or maybe the spinoff show that Mork got from that role. Or the many, many hours I spent watching Aladdin in my 20s with my young son, Nicholas, who lovingly referred to the Genie (voiced by Williams) as “Genie Dave.” Countless films. Countless laughs. Countless hours of entertainment. I can’t say it of many actors, but of this man, I can:  I loved him. image(2)

So why does his death feel personal to me? Why do I keep tearing up at a new reference to an old role, or another new posting on Facebook of a memory, or a photo, or a quote? Maybe because it hits close to home, triggering memories of tragic loss, way too soon, by way of mental illness and suicide not once in my life, not twice, but three times, and with several other scares along the way.

image(1)

I remember when I was in middle school, just a little younger than my Noah is now, when my parents finally got divorced after some back and forth moving in and out on my dad’s part. After 21 years of marriage, my mother was devastated, and consequently sunk into a deep, throw-me-a-lifeline sadness and depression. I couldn’t understand it; I couldn’t fix it, even with all of my 12-13 year old wisdom or humor. My brother and I took care of ourselves – doing our own laundry, getting ourselves to school and church, driving our mother’s car illegally at 13 and 14 to the store with a signed check of hers to buy groceries, cooking our own meals (and making sure that she ate, too). THAT is what I remember of those years. My mother tried to take her own life at least twice that I had to deal with, and thankfully she was not successful. But it leaves an impression on a kid, the importance of a healthy mental outlook. I’m not sure why she didn’t get any more help than some kind counseling from various people from church, but that was all she would accept. No real counselors. No meds.

Years later, at the ripe old age of 22, the stunning news of a close friend from youth group’s suicide was a significant punch in the gut. This wasn’t just somebody that we knew casually – this was someone close, who had been in my circle. There was no explanation, and it was a long time before there was a release from the grip of grief that swallowed each and every one of us who had spent countless hours with this amazing spirit that was now gone. I remember being angry after being upset, calling his actions selfish and cowardly; but I was young and ignorant about the real repercussions of addictions and/or mental illness.

image(3)

Even more years later and a lifetime away, with different circles and different circumstances, I once again was brought to my knees when I got the call that my mother’s best friend had ended her life. My mom had been living with my family as she battled breast cancer, and her friend had taken over mom’s home, living there and making sure that all was kept in order. One day she came home and made a lone decision that would affect countless others in her life. There was no note. There was no explanation or reason that any of us could fathom as to why she would choose to take this desperate, and final, step. We searched for a note, or an email, or any clue as to why – and never found the answers we so hoped to find. For months afterward, I could not step foot inside of mom’s house. It sat empty for a while. The bathroom had to be remodeled, yet I still couldn’t go in. I couldn’t sleep and had horrible nightmares of guns going off; eventually my doctor put me on anti-anxiety meds and sleeping pills (not the best combo for extended use…but that’s another blog for another day). It took a long time for me to get past that one, as well as my children. But eventually it got easier, and the anger and grief subsided; and I started getting a clearer picture of what mental health issues can do when left unchecked.

Then it happened again. More years later, and only four years ago. Not as close to me as the previous two, but close to my boys and their family that I care deeply about. The days that preceded this death were filled with warnings of a much deeper issue, but those who recognized it felt helpless, dealing with an adult who we all thought had to be willing to get the help themselves. Looking back, and having learned some more about mental health challenges, I know now that sometimes it takes a push from a loved one.

And then most recently. My son, Nicholas. He scared the ever-loving shit out of me. That’s really the only way to describe it. One afternoon, his wife brought the baby to the house for a visit, and was clearly distraught and crying. She said that he was at home, in the bed, and wouldn’t get up. He had quit his job, and was scaring her with the level of depression that he had slipped into. I knew that I had to do something, so I got up and headed over to their house. I called a therapist friend and got some advice, and was prepared to take him to an emergency room if I felt that he was going to harm himself. We talked, I asked a lot of questions, I made him get up and I took him back to my house with me. They spent the day with us and then we went to dinner, and I told him to hang on until we could get him an appointment with the therapist that I had called. A couple of weeks later, I received a text from his wife that he was struggling again, and she was scared. I started talking to him through text, and when he told me that he hated everyone and everything, and then that he didn’t want to live anymore, I knew that the time had come and that I HAD to do something. I would be damned if I was going to sit by and hope that he got help. He was reaching out, and if I had to force him to get help, then I was willing to do it.

I drove to his school in Dallas, picked him up, and drove him to his therapist (and my amazing friend). I left him with her for an hour, and upon my return, we discussed mental health facilities in the area and made a plan. I was more scared for his life than I had ever been in the 22 years that he had been on the planet. My fear of losing him was so great, that I decided that it was worth him hating me for taking him than not doing anything at all. And so I did. I drove him to a facility not too far from where we are, and made sure that he knew that I was going to be leaving him there. Once we got there, he filled out paperwork and we waited. I had to take his necklace, his cell phone, his hoodie that had a drawstring, and ask his wife to bring him slip on shoes with no laces. Soon they were taking him back to be evaluated by the staff, and then finding him a bed. They told me that I could come back and visit that evening, during the one hour visitation. When I returned, his wife had arrived and we took turns going back to see him. I went first so that she could have most of the hour with him.

I will tell you – it was one of the WORST feelings I have ever experienced in my life, driving away and leaving my firstborn there. I cried almost the entire hour drive home; but I knew that he was safe, and wouldn’t hurt himself. At least not today. He would get seen by a mental health physician, get some meds, and would have group counseling three times per day. For six days, he stayed in the hospital, getting what he needed to get through the crisis. For this, I am thankful. I am glad that on THAT particular day, I was the pushy mother who stuck my nose in. I don’t know what I would have done if he would have done something to himself and I had not even tried to do anything to help him. I learned through that experience with Nicholas that sometimes, when the darkness takes over and the demons try to take control, sometimes we just aren’t able to keep our heads above water on our own. And like my friend, Brandie, said today, “We are all here together and we actually ARE each other’s keepers.”

Nicholas also has some insight that I wanted to share:  “As soon as we passed the automatic doors, I knew that I was about to be far from my usual comfort zone. However, even if I was not able to do this for my own well-being, I knew that I needed to do it for my beautiful wife and daughter. As I filled out the paperwork for consideration of admittance, I was actually too afraid to look my mother in the eye. I am not sure whether it was due to me feeling ashamed of what things have come to, or just to avoid seeing her saddened face. I could not imagine what was going through her head as my mother, but I am quite sure that it was not entirely pleasant.

Once I was in the hospital, I had enough good fortune on my side that I was placed on the detox side of the hospital, rather than in the psych ward. That was a great thing too, because the individuals who were placed on the psych side of the hospital were not really as stable as the people I had the pleasure of staying with on my side. For most of my time in there, I mainly kept to myself and used the time for a lot of self-reflection. I was still not happy that it had come to admitting myself to a mental facility, yet I knew I had done the right thing,

Attending my group therapy sessions did some good as well, however, not in the sense that most people would think. Most of what was said in the group therapy sessions seemed to be quite “cookie cutter” phrases and what have you, but hearing them being spoken out loud still provides a decent comfort. Not to mention the crowd that you are a part of at a hospital of this nature is enough in and of itself to make you feel better about whatever hard circumstances you may be facing. Like I was saying, though, my help did not really come from my group therapy sessions, but rather hearing what other patients had to say to each other outside of these meetings.

You meet all kinds of interesting people in a mental hospital, from many different walks of life. Hearing these people explain their hardships and watch as tears roll out of their face sort of makes you connect with them on such a level that reminds you of how human you really are. Many people worry that society judges you for wanting to seek help in some sense that it appears as a weakness. I am here to say that in no way is getting help a sign of weakness. Think about all the people that really care about you.  I know that that is not exactly the easiest thing to do when depression has set in, but it is important to express what is on your mind to someone as soon as possible before you find yourself in a situation that you could later regret. A good friend of mine recently told me some very simple words that I feel is very powerful in the sense of self-awareness. She simply said, ‘You are enough.’  So if you know anyone out there who is struggling with self-abuse, depression, or suicidal thoughts, leave them with those three words. It is a wonderful and powerful thing to say, and would be a great thing to say when you are not sure what else to say.” (Nicholas Dodd, 8/11/2014)

Clowning around like we do...
Clowning around like we do…

 

So…while many people feel like the thing to say to those who are struggling with depression and/or addiction is “I’ll pray for you,” it is important to know that while praying is all fine and good – it isn’t going to help your loved one. Action is what they need, especially when they can’t produce the necessary actions themselves. Take the risk. Make them mad. Maybe even hate you for a season. Would you rather hate yourself if they were gone? And chances are, they won’t hate you at all. We MUST keep a dialogue going about mental health. We need to love each other without judgment, so that those who are struggling aren’t afraid to ask for a lifeline. IMG_0279

So Rest in Peace, Robin Williams. Thank you for the years and years of laughter and happiness. Thank you for the selfless work you gave gave to the USO and to St. Jude’s kids. I hope that your demons are quiet now. You are not stupid, selfish, or a coward; we must understand that you had grown weary of trying to navigate dark and stormy waters.  Thank you to my beautiful son, Nicholas, for staying.  I need you here.  Your family needs you here, all of us.  Your wife and baby girl need you here.  I say to you, and every other person who may be fighting for their very lives inside of their head:

You are enough. Period.

* * * * *

If you, or someone that you care about needs help navigating through their own rough waters, please contact one of the following resources.  Don’t fight alone.

* It Gets Better Project (www.itgetsbetter.org) – for LGBT youth going through difficult situations

* The Trevor Project (www.trevorspace.org)  Trevor Lifeline:  1-866-488-7386 – Providing life-saving and life-affirming services for LGBT youth

* National Suicide Prevention Hotline (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org)  800.273.TALK (8255)  

Taking a Stand

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (8/1/2012):

So we all know and have heard the latest broohaha regarding fast food chain Chick-Fil-A.  Our social network sites have blown up with constant updates, stories, blogs, feeds, protests, counter-protests and such about it.  Most people, by now, are pretty sick of it – at times, myself included.  About a week or so after the news broke that the CEO openly and proudly declared his stance as anti-marriage equality (and thus speaking for the entire company, franchises and all), I read an interesting blog written on The Huffington Post regarding the whole situation.  Here was my comment about the blog, as well as a link to the blog itself:

“It is sometimes so hard to sit by while people who say they are my friend/family who care about MY family, will also say that they have no intentions of boycotting anything. That’s fine. As long as they are fully aware that their money goes to organizations who are determined to keep my family from being equal to theirs. It’s not about the chicken sandwich. And yes, everyone is entitled to free speech, freedom of religion, and an opinion. But please think about it, before you go and spend your money there, of all the times that you have said that you support my family – and then don’t. Either don’t spend your money at a business that supports inequality, or don’t tell me that you love and adore my family. These are the kinds of organizations that keep MY marriage from being recognized, and require ME to adopt my own daughter. Just so you know.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/conor-gaughan/chick-fil-a-homophobia_b_1711566.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

I encourage anyone who reads my blog to read Conor Gaughan’s piece.  It is just another real person writing from his real perspective, trying to reach his readers so that they can see where he is REALLY coming from.

So the supporters have now planned a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day on August 1st, and the opposers have planned all sorts of protests on the same day.  There will be same-sex PDAs/kiss-ins at some chains, while others plan to wait in line and order water, or order food and then cancel.  To me this seems like an open show of hostility that will only make us, the LGBT community, seem petty and ridiculous.  Get mad at me if you want, but I think that the best way to show our opposition to the company’s declared stance is to first NOT GO THERE.  And if we choose to go there for an organized protest, then fine, exercise the right to peaceably gather with signs that show our thoughts and feelings (grammatically and spelled correct, of course).

www.thenextfamily.com

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Protest Rally @ White House – May 2010

All of this has also got me to thinking about my children.  What would I want my children to learn about all of this?  Yes, we used to eat at Chick-fil-A, but it has been a long time, as we stopped going there over a year ago when we first learned of the company’s donations towards hate and anti-equality groups.  Now, Noah is twelve, and when we stopped going there, he didn’t really get it, and we didn’t really try to explain it.  But now that he IS twelve, with all of it in the news and on the lips of virtually everyone, I did try to explain to him the reason why WE, our family, doesn’t go there anymore.  I’m not sure if he understands completely, but I wanted to take the time to explain to him this stand that we are taking.  I also explained to him that yes, one small group (ie: our family) CAN make a difference in the bottom line when there are lots and lots of small groups doing the same thing.  I also explained to him that it is no difference than in school, where I expect him to stand up for anyone who is getting treated differently, for any reason, because it is simply the right thing to do.  Nicholas, on the other hand, is a grown man who lives on his own.  He worked at our local Chick-Fil-A when he was a teenager, and has decidedly chosen to continue to frequent there.  Sure, it is disappointing to hear him say that he loves his gay moms, but he also loves their chicken sandwich.  Did I not teach him to take a stand against bigotry and inequality?  I thought I had, but once they are grown and gone, it really isn’t my decision to make for him.  I love him regardless of where he eats.  And I know that he is young, and one day he will be faced with something in HIS life that will force him to either make a stand for what is right, even if it means giving up something he likes or doing something that might be uncomfortable.

This is the conclusion that I have come to, since I have many conservative friends and family, who think that all of us should just “shut up and get over it:”  It doesn’t affect them personally, so it isn’t as important to most as it is to those of us fighting for marriage equality and equal treatment.  Their marriage is always recognized, and they enjoy all of the rights and privileges that go along with that.  But as for me and my house, I will always and continually teach them about taking a stand in the face of something that is wrong.  And I will continue to teach them to take a stand against anybody doing wrong against another group, whether it directly affects them or not.

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock”

 ~ Thomas Jefferson

Lincoln Had it Right

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (7/3/2012):

So we’re kind of at a stand still right now with Harrison’s adoption.  After we found out that we had to have an ad litem attorney (in San Antonio) to represent Harrison, that is where things have slowed down.  Everything else is done, and now we are waiting for this last step to fall into place so that we can get a court date.  I anxiously await for the phone call that says when we can go!

In the meantime, all across the nation, LGBT Pride was celebrated throughout the month of June.  Dallas has its Pride parade each year in September, rather than June (like the rest of the world).  But while most of the world celebrates equality and pride, there are still hate crimes and suicides happening to young gay and lesbians in our country.  Just last week, in Portland, Texas (a suburb of Corpus Christi) a young lesbian couple was found in a waterside park, having each been shot in the head.  One of the young ladies, Mollie, died from her injuries; her girlfriend, Kristene, remains in the hospital, recovering from hers.  It did not make the news here in Dallas, but word traveled swiftly on news websites and social media.  Soon, LGBT communities across the country reacted, planning candlelight vigils on behalf of Mollie and Kristene, signing and sending rainbow flags to their families, and raising money to assist Kristene’s family with her growing medical bills.  Sadness, anger, outrage, and fear have spread throughout our communities, and only recently is there hope – the Portland police have reported that they have a possible suspect.  The shooting has, however, been minimized in some media outlets, saying that they “aren’t sure that it was a hate crime.”  Um, really?  Somebody took this young couple and SHOT THEM IN THE HEAD.  Whether or not it was because they were gay is irrelevant – it was fueled by hate.

Dallas Candlelight Vigil for Mollie & Kristene

Last weekend, before we headed to Dallas for the candlelight vigil in our gayborhood, we dropped the kids off with my mother and decided to catch a movie.  We went to see Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter for some mindless entertainment.  Since I have degrees in History, and we both enjoy a good vampire movie, we thought it would be right up our alley for a good time.  Now, there wasn’t a whole lot about it that was historically accurate, except maybe for some names and dates, and few events.  But when it got toward the end of the movie, and President Lincoln was delivering the Gettysburg Address, it hit me – Abraham Lincoln GOT IT.  He valued life – ALL life – and maintained that all man[kind] deserved freedom and equality, as set forth by our founding fathers.  Think about it:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

 Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

 The second paragraph reminds me of the LGBT community now, in 2012, and what could be equated as a modern “great civil war.”  We are engaged in our great civil war, testing whether WE, so conceived and so dedicated, can endure.  How many have given their lives so that WE, as a community, might live?  How many Harvey Milks have there been over the years?  How many young men and women have lost their fight on the battlefield of homophobia, and taken their own lives?  How many Mollie and Kristenes have their been, losing their lives to hatred and violence?

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” ~ President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863

 Just like President Lincoln being unable to consecrate the ground in Gettysburg, neither we can consecrate or hallow any ground where our LGBT sisters and brothers have lost their fight.  It is they who do so for us.  And while we have our marches, our rallies, our parades, and our vigils, most of what is said will be soon forgotten by our peers.  But we cannot forget those lives, and we must always resolve that they, too, will not have died in vain.  We can see change on the horizon, but there is still so much work to be done.  I have hope that I will see our new birth of freedom during my lifetime, and that our government will return to the thought (and hopefully practice) that it is one of the people, by the people, and FOR the people – ALL people.

Lincoln had it right, even in 1863.

A Morning with Rick Santorum in North Texas

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (2/15/2012):

So as most people already know, we are well into an election year.  We have been watching for weeks as various Conservatives battle for the position of Republican party candidate.  It seems as if each passing week brings us new levels of crazy among them, and I shudder at the thought of any of them in a position of power or leadership.

Among the candidacy-seeking, we find Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum (thank God Rick Perry has already dropped out of the race).  Last week, Santorum visited our area and met with local pastors.  I was planning on going to cover the event in person, take photos, and try to get a question in to the ultra-conservative campaigner.  When I couldn’t find anyone to watch the baby, I thought about taking her and introducing her to all the fundies as our gaybie, but ultimately decided to just stay home and watch the live feed.

The event was to be at the Bella Donna Chapel in McKinney, Texas.  It’s not a church but a beautiful event and wedding venue not too far from where I live.  It was supposed to start at 9:30 AM, but Santorum was late.  Once he did finally arrive, they ushered him in where he and his wife, Karen, were seated on the first row pew.  One of the chapel owners, Donna, introduced the event and Santorum by talking about plans for painting angels in the arches of the chapel.  She revealed a painting of Santorum’s daughter (who battles with a childhood disability), and told them that she was to be painted on one of the arches in the ceiling (her name is Bella).  She said it was a “God thing,” and also gave Bella a key to the chapel on a necklace, saying that the family was always welcome there.  After this presentation, she introduced Rick Santorum and he stepped up to take the microphone.


Santorum started off saying that he really believes that the foundation of our country rests on two institutions:  the family and the church.  He said, “Without those two institutions, we can’t be free.  Faith + Family = Freedom.”  Now once upon a time I would have believed every word that this man said, simply because he claims to be a “man of God.”  I’m so thankful that I woke up to the blind follower that I had been raised to be, and now think for myself.  He also said that he doesn’t like the term “freedom of worship” instead of “freedom of religion” that is often used.  He says it’s not about just WHEN you worship, but what you do in public.  He says that the Obama administration’s “attack on religion” is about trying to stop people from living their faith in public.  Every time I hear one of these candidates speaking of “Obama’s attack, or war, on religion,” I am always surprised!  I have never gotten that impression from him or his family, and I thought I had been paying attention!  Silly me!
Santorum soon moved into his topic of choice:  abortion.  He said, “I don’t think that God will bless this country when this country chooses to take over one million innocent lives per year through abortion.  There’s one thing about VOTING pro-life, and there’s another thing about TALKING pro-life.  You can be the most conservative person ever, vote for no government, and you’re fine.  But once you speak out on moral issues, you will have your head out of the trenches, and you will be shot at.”  But wait a minute…didn’t Santorum’s wife have an abortion?

While fighting for moral issues and against partial-birth abortion, Santorum’s wife became pregnant with their fourth child.  When they had the sonogram, the doctor told them that the baby was going to die.  They went to a children’s hospital and had a doctor perform surgery on the baby in utero – it was successful.  Everything would be fine, the doctors warned, unless his wife got a fever, which would indicate an infection in her uterus.  Ultimately, she DID get an infection and developed a fever, and Santorum was called home.  They were told that she was going to die if she didn’t “deliver,” and the baby boy was going to die.  She labored and she delivered him alive, where he lived for two hours; they named him Gabriel.  So is it an abortion if he was born alive, just way too early and unable to sustain life?  The definition of abortion, in the dictionary, includes the following:  the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy; any of various surgical methods for terminating a pregnancy, especially during the first six months; an immature and nonviable fetus.  In the Santorums’ case, it was technically an abortion, because all parties involved knew that the baby would NOT survive once extracted from the womb.  And this is the same man who has publicly said that even in the event of rape or health crisis, that a pregnancy resulting from it should be carried to term no matter what.

He then started sharing about his daughter, Bella.  They found out about her disability four days after her birth, and were told that they were lucky that she was alive because babies usually die in utero from this particular condition.  They were told to let her go.  Bella lived for ten days in the NICU, and they brought her home on hospice care; they celebrated her birthday every week.  But she didn’t die.  Santorum said that he had to be “the rock, and had to detach from Bella a little.  I loved her, but I had to detach from her, treat her a little different.”  When she almost died, he was reminded by his other daughter that he hadn’t done anything to save her.  This woke him up and he decided that he couldn’t hold back from her any longer.  This is why, according to him, he is SO outspoken about abortion – because of his disabled daughter.  Even for a dude that I absolutely cannot stand, and I believe that he is a homophobic bigot who is brainwashed, I was still touched by his stories about his children.

Once he finished, he was supposed to take questions from the pastors and then go outside to take questions from the media and his constituents.  I guess because he was late, he was only able to take a couple of questions from the pastors.  The first question, which I couldn’t hear, was something about intolerance.  His answer started out talking about the 9th circuit court decision regarding Prop 8 the day before in California.  He said that “it is intolerance to say that people are bigots and haters if you believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.  The intolerance of the left, the intolerance of the secular ideology is a religion unto itself – it is just not a religious-based religion.  It is completely intolerant of dissent.  They want their worldview to be accepted without question.”  He was talking, and I just kept hearing “blah blah blah” and watching as countless sheep blindly nodded in agreement.

The second question was asking Santorum who his favorite Supreme Court Justice is, to which he answered Clarence Thomas.  “Because he [Thomas] sees the Constitution itself, but also sees the Constitution in relation to the Declaration.  Because he sees that there is more to America than just the Constitution itself.  Scalia seems to focus a little too much on the original words of the Constitution and its meaning….”  What the what???  Are you kidding me Rick Santorum???  See, I knew that this yahoo has probably never even read the original Constitution – well, and he and his kind are constantly trying to amend and change it to fit their beliefs.

After this, the group of pastors gathered around Santorum, laid hands on him and prayed for him.  He then went back out the side door; was supposed to answer media and voter questions outside, but the feed went dark, so I assume that it didn’t happen.

Wow.  It was pretty insightful to watch him speaking in a small forum, versus the large crowds that we typically see him in front of on television.  I’m glad I didn’t go.  It would have been hard to keep my mouth shut.  I’m very afraid for the future of equality in our country if this man has even a remote chance of becoming President here.  He has openly declared that if he were to win, he would reverse virtually every act of legislature that has occurred in the name of marriage equality, or equality in general.  I have plenty of friends and family who are hardcore Republicans, having grown up both in the south AND in the church.  It gets really hard to choke down the knowledge that people who claim to love me and my family will vote for whomever is the Republican candidate, simply because they are Republican.  The question is constantly swirling around:  If you love me, love my family, and believe in equality, why and HOW can you possibly give your vote away to a person who is openly and blatantly against ME, my family, and equality???  Just because they are Republican?  Shouldn’t our vote be behind the person who represents the closest of those values that we hold dear to our hearts?

Needless to say…it should be interesting indeed.

Nighttime Musings from the Nursery Rocker

Tonight I am sad.

It’s after midnight, the baby and the boy are asleep.  The wife is asleep.  I should be asleep.  But my mind won’t shut down, thinking about some of the awful things going on today in our country.

Earlier, around 10 PM, I went into the nursery for my nightly position in the rocker with the baby.  Erikka brought me a cup of coffee, and I settled in, rocking our sweet baby girl and reading status updates from Facebook on my phone.  Now, I am sad because of the news today that the Dublin Dr. Pepper plant is shutting down and no longer making the beverage of the gods, but I digress.  This is not the sadness that is currently keeping me from slumber.  What really got to me was another day of political news stories from the current stream of Republican candidate hopefuls for this year’s presidential election.  Almost all of the prospects are a frightening thought for families like mine, and the rights and privileges that we fight so hard to secure for ourselves.

Our current governor, Rick Perry (R), is sadly continuing his campaigning, even after coming in miserably low in recent state primaries.  I suppose that his crowning achievement in his campaign would be his “Strong” political ad video, where he spoke his obvious disdain for gays/lesbians now being allowed to serve in the military, and declared that our current president has waged a war on religion.  I had no idea!  The thought of this man becoming even mildly close to the White House, even as a visitor, makes me nauseous.  The only downside to him not getting the candidacy is the fact that he will come back to Texas and continue his horribly long reign as governor here.

Then there is Mitt Romney, the front runner and former governor of Massachusetts, is probably the least conservative of the bunch.  At first I thought that he might be alright, as he made a comment once (early on) that he didn’t have a problem with same-sex marriage; he has since said that he thinks that it should go back to the individual states.  He has also said that he would prohibit future marriages – and of course there will be no federal recognition – but that each state could recognize those marriages that have already taken place.  Holy shit, really?  Did nobody learn ANYTHING from Prop 8 in California?  Really – going back to class grades basically, a version of separate-but-equal??  What year is this?

There is also a real piece of work, Rick Santorum.  He is a former senator from Pennsylvania, and he is a douchebag.  Some of the things that have come out of his mouth have left me sitting there thinking, “No way.  Did he REALLY just say that?”  He is vehemently opposed to abortion for any reason (as is Rick Perry), even though his own wife has had an abortion because her health was at risk.  HYP-O-CRITE.  He wants the United States to be a Christian nation – HIS definition of Christian – and has no regard for any other religions or beliefs.  Oh, and Santorum’s wife, who asks “the holy spirit to speak through her husband,” was shacked up with an abortion doctor before leaving him to be with brother Rick.  Nice, huh?  And of course, he hates the gays.  He says that if HE were president, he would not only outlaw same sex marriage, but he would invalidate all of those marriages that have already taken place – like MINE.  Them are fighting words Mr. Santorum.  IF that were to happen, which I don’t believe that our country is stupid enough to allow to happen, then he would have a hell of a lot of homos at the White House doorstep waving not only rainbow flags and signs, but lots of legal marriage licenses.  I don’t think it would be pretty.  I mean, really Rick – you seriously want to take the country backwards, don’t you?  This is not progress.  He also has said that it is better for a kid to have a dad in prison than to have two dads or two moms.  Every time he utters another stupid remark, he resembles Hitler more and more to me.

There’s also Ron Paul, a U.S. State Rep from Texas, who seems like a little weasel to look at him.  I don’t know much about his positions, because I don’t pay that much attention to him.  I have had a couple of people tell me that I should vote for him, to which I just keep my mouth shut.  Really?  Anybody who would tell me to vote for any of these bigoted morons, who are hell-bent on taking away my rights and those of MY family, is somebody who really doesn’t have a clue.

And there is Newt Gingrich.  Former Speaker of the House, this asshat is VERY anti-gay anything, despite having a sister who is a married lesbian and director at the Human Rights Campaign (big gay rights organization, FYI).  He didn’t attend his sister’s wedding, but he sent a gift – kind of contradicting your own stance there, Newton.  Fortunately, his sister Candace has said that she will endorse President Obama in the upcoming 2012 election.  HA!  That’s awesome!  And not to mention (although I AM going to mention it), he-who-is-so-anti-gay-marriage has been married (and divorced) multiple times.  But it’s okay, because he was married and unfaithful to someone of the OPPOSITE sex.  This moron is racist, making cracks about African-Americans and food stamps.  He has suggested having poor students in public schools doing the janitorial work and cut those jobs.  He has also stated that a kid would be better off as an orphan than have two mommies.  Yes.

And this is why I am sad.

As I sat in our beautiful nursery, rocking our baby who was created with such thought and love, I scrolled through news articles and saw where Newt Gingrich had made that statement.  A child would be better off as an orphan than to have two mommies.  It actually made me cry.  The thought of my sweet baby girl, alone and without us or anyone else to care for her broke my heart.  No child is better off as an orphan…EVER.  The thought of any of these horrible men becoming remotely close to a position of leadership in this country is scary for folks like me, like us.  Then there is also the ignorant pope, half a world away, making statements this week that gay marriage is a “threat to the future of humanity.”  Oh dear God.  A lot of people don’t have the worries and fears that we do, because they can go and get married and/or divorced as many times as they want to without question or consequence.  The gay/lesbian community have to fight, march, and protest for these rights, so it’s scary to think that someone might take over as leadership and take them away because of their own personal agendas and prejudices.  I know that I have family, and probably several friends on Facebook (and in real life), who will vote Republican ticket.  I just hope that they will really look closely at their candidate’s positions on all of the issues before making the decision to cast their vote.  I know that many folks just vote, straight ticket, solely on the fact that there is a (D) or (R) behind their name.   I hope and pray that the American people will choose very wisely this election season – every vote and every choice will matter.

And I’m still pretty sad over the whole Dr. Pepper thing, too.

What Will it Take?

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (9/14/11):

This past Sunday was the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.  Facebook blew up the closer that it got with messages of remembrance and “never forget” admonishments.  At one point it seemed a bit redundant to see the words “Never Forget” over and over – how in the world could anyone in this generation EVER forget the horrible events that happened that day?  I would be scarce to find any, I imagine.  But I digress.

So we were driving, that Sunday, to have brunch with one of our close friends for her birthday.  We chose to go and celebrate this day with her because of her birth, rather than stay glued to the sadness that clogged the TV and airwaves with a constant influx of reminders and visuals.  Before we left for brunch, Erikka started telling me about a professor that she had in college who said that “every generation has a cohesive event that brings them together…except for this one [meaning those of her age].”  This lecture was given before 9/11.  This lecture was given before Hurricane Katrina occurred in New Orleans.  So at the time, she was correct; but then those events happened, and she remained correct by the truth of her words.

This got me to thinking about major “cohesive” events that have occurred throughout history for different generations, and what it might mean for this baby girl that we are about to have.  I would hope and pray that she never has to deal with a national tragedy, but sigh when I think that it is highly likely that she will.  I wonder what it was like for the generations before us.  I wonder how, without the age of technology that we have, did they come together for a united cause?

For my parents’ generation, the major cohesive event was probably Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.  Whenever I would talk to my mom or any of her friends about it, every single one of them could tell their own unique story about where they were, what they were doing, who they were with, and how they reacted.  One might think that the Vietnam War would have united most folks, but in reality it left a country very divided. 

For my grandparents’ generation, the major cohesive event was probably World War II; specifically the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  The country was shocked and in horror as the Japanese dared to come onto our waters and bomb our ships and harbors.  People came together like they had never known, and cheered as FDR issued an order for war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed.  Men enlisted and went to war in both the Pacific and European theaters, while women went to work in factories, flew shuttle planes, and formed baseball leagues to keep the folks back home entertained.  I remember telling my students, when I taught History, that everything happens for a reason, and every event has a ripple effect that goes on for generations after it.  My grandfather was in the Navy during World War II, and worked on an aircraft carrier that was based out of Pearl Harbor.  Fortunately for him, and probably for a lot of other grandfathers-to-be that day, all of the aircraft carriers were out of the harbor and either at sea or in other ports; and this was specifically what the Japanese were coming to bomb.  When the students looked at me with that puzzled look of, “What’s your point?” I would then explain that Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941.  After the attack my grandfather was sent home on leave; my mother was born on November 25, 1942.  Had his aircraft carrier been in the harbor, it likely would have been blown up and he could have very easily died; and thus my mother would not have been born 11 months or so later; and thus I would not have been born in 1970.  A ripple effect.  These major cohesive events have long lasting consequences that many have no idea are even present.  And for people of Jewish descent during my grandparents’ generation?  They had a huge event – the Holocaust.  It SHOULD have brought anybody who was human together in a cohesive way, but it didn’t seem to have that effect on people like most believe that it should.  But that is a whole other blog in and of itself.

So now here we are, ten years after one of the most terrifying days that I can remember in my lifetime.  I didn’t sleep well for weeks afterward, and I lived in fear of bombs and of air travel.  Yes, I know exactly where I was when I learned of what happened – I can tell you the exact intersection and traffic light I sat frozen at when I heard it on the radio, when I noticed that there were NO planes flying overhead for the first time in my life.  I can also remember the way that this country came together in the days and months that followed this horrible tragedy.  For the first time ever, it didn’t matter if someone was black or white, Catholic or Baptist, gay or straight.  We were Americans first.  I would bet money that after the events of 9/11, nobody cared if Ben who worked in the North tower was married to Tom, or if he was gay for that matter.  The only thing that mattered THAT day was that thousands of innocent lives were lost, and not one of them was more important than any other.  Every person was counted and mourned for WHO they were:  someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, partner, friend, father, mother.  Why does it have to take something as horrible as the events of 9/11 to make our country see each other as people just like themselves?  What made that sensation of “we’re in it together” go away?  That was the America that I was so proud to live in.  Years later, it would be that way again when Hurricane Katrina wiped out the city of New Orleans.  This “cohesive event” would capture us again, bring us together, and draw us closer.  People lending a hand, sharing their homes with strangers and other families, offering help however they could.

So this makes me wonder, for our baby girl who will be here sooner than we’re probably ready for: what will be that cohesive event for HER generation?  What is it going to take to bring this country together as one again?  A country that is so divided in politics, in religion, in race even still, and in treating every citizen equally and respectfully…what will it take?

Remembering Today & Tomorrow….and Always

I went back through some of my older blogs/notes to find this one that I wrote two years ago.  May we always remember all of the lives that were lost to deranged mental illness and hate.

* * * * *

Today marks some anniversaries that I am sure most of us would rather forget. As I was watching a recorded show, ironically about the dangers of cults and extremists, it just so happened that one of the cults and their horrible, tragic end was today.

April 19, 1993 – the Branch Davidian compound, Mt. Carmel, in Waco, Texas was burned to the ground. David Koresh, the cult leader, and 73 others died that day.

April 19, 1995 – Timothy McVeigh sets a bomb at the Murrah Federal Bldg. in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. There were 168 adults and children killed that day – many lives were terrorized as a result of huge amounts of hate. McVeigh has since been executed by lethal injection.

April 20, 1999 – Columbine High School school shootings; 13 students/teachers killed, plus the suicides of the two shooters. (this tragedy took place, purposely, on the date of Adolf Hitler’s birthday)

And let’s not forget the latest April tragedy, whose anniversary was a few days ago:

April 16, 2007 – There were 33 college students killed at Virginia Tech University, including the lone shooter.

One of the darkest calendar weeks of the entire year. There has been a lot of death and destruction surrounding the dates in this 4 day span. Just remembering and thinking about all of those who lost their lives and the families that were left behind to cope with it. The least we could do is to never forget, right?