Sunday, August 08, 2010

And then I went to Skank-real (Montreal)

We all gladly go the distance for our friends. So when one of my nearest and dearest decided to fete her 30th birthday in Montreal, well, who was I to deprive her of my company? If you've never been to Montreal it's easy to tack off on a long weekend. Eight hours north of New York, it's a scenic drive straight up I-87. You know you're in French Canada when, on the U.S. side of the border, your radio starts to register stations blaring the unique honk that is Quebecois French. Alas, you arrive in Montreal and it looks kind of bleak, but whatever, they have some churches, a museum or two, and a D-list gay scene that is very International Male. Now, you might be wondering why I'm hating and referring to Montreal as Skank-real, well, it's just because the city has a skank air to it. The gay clubs are merely dressed up brothels and the streets are rather dirty -- the upside, however, is that there's a cool (though difficult to use) public bike rental system called Bixi. Bikes are parked throughout the city and you can pick up and drop off bikes wherever you like, for about $5 CAD an hour or $75 CAD for a year-long membership. Not a bad way to see a so-so city. Pix below:

Saturday, August 07, 2010

BEAR-ly Made it Out of Ptown Alive

Speaking of being selective about the company you keep, I took a friend up on his offer to spend a few days in Provincetown during Bear Week. I figure if I was out-gayed and out-abbed in Fire Island then surely a week among less persnickety men would do my self-esteem some good. And so it was. Planes, trains and automobiles - literally - to arrive at the most beautiful and vibrant town on the end of Cape Cod. Y'all know I've spent some good (and bad) times out in Ptown but I never tire of the town's beauty. The dunes, the tall grass, and the winding roads that lead to nowhere and everywhere -- it's just as easy to feel like the only person in the world out there as it is to feel cramped among a horde of bears.

Here, too, the company was stellar and my only regret is that I couldn't stay longer. Glad I caught these shots.

My Friends and I Don't Play Well with Others

BSE (Best Summer Ever) has taken me to three East Coast gay beach communities and I realize that, more often than not, my friends and I do not play well with others. Take, for instance, my last visit to Fire Island Pines. There but for the grace of God I go, into the abyss of booze, pecs and lasciviousness - not to mention the most effete gay accent you've ever heard, where every slurred statement is laced with a lisp and ends with a question mark. Don't get me wrong, I love me some gay camaraderie, but with a select group. A select group that will ignore an entire island of men to snap pictures of themselves and just get real ignorant and belligerent on the beach.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Where I've Been: Jersey Shore

Fist-pumping-like-champs, was my weekend on the Jersey Shore. Well, not exactly. I spent Fourth of July weekend with James and his sister Pam in the town of Avon by the Sea. Quaint if not unremarkable and definitely not the guido fest I was expecting. Just a lot of nice, normal-looking families with their kids in floaties and gangly teens milling about being generally well-behaved. In the spirit of spontaneity we decided to book a room at the Days Inn and catch the fireworks in Asbury Park. Why the gays have descended on this housing-project-by-the-sea is beyond me. I don't care how many cheap Victorian houses that town has, I didn't feel safe there and I'm still washing the stench of the Days Inn off my clothes. Anyway it was a trip to the Jersey Shore and the company was top-notch, scabies, hypodermic needles and tacky gays aside, we had a blast. God bless America!

Where I've Been - Austin, TX

Best summer ever started out in Austin, Texas. Over one of many breakfasts at my new fav neighborhood spot The Grey Dog (go for the breakfast quesadillas), James and I decided to have a Texas weekend. I wanted cowboy hats, great Mexican food, great barbecue, and a chance to go line-dancing. Done, done, done and done, sweetie.

Having never been to Texas, the general consensus from friends and a quick Web search was that Austin was the best bet for two confirmed bachelors who wanted to visit the Lone Star State. Besides, the city's unofficial motto "Keep Austin Weird" was inviting enough versus, say, Dallas', "Home to George W. Bush." While I didn't find Austin to be "weird," everyone was exceedingly polite and the city itself has a young energy about it that reminded me of Boston. This is, after all, a college town. It's also perfect for a long weekend if you want to get a little bit country without fearing for your life in some backwater shantytown. In two full days, you can tack off the bars of 6th Street, the city's main drag for restaurants and bars ( it's a little pedestrian if you ax me), the warehouse district (just a block over across South Congress Avenue) which is a bit more urbane and home to most of the city's gay bars and more upscale restaurants, along with some cultural landmarks. A car is a must around here, especially if you want to head out to Barton Springs, the LBJ Presidential Library and pretty much anything else that's not in the South Congress (SoCo) area.

In addition to gorging ourselves -- we drove to Driftwood in the Texas hills to have a proper BBQ experience at The Salt Lick, had terrific Mexican at Maria Maria (owned by Carlos Santana, not that that drew us there, we just found out when we read the menu) and I had my first-ever bacon-and-cheddar-infused Bloody Mary at Frank (proud purveyors of artisanal sausage and gourmet coffees) along with a pulled pork omelette. Sights worth checking out:

Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum

Barton Springs

Texas State House


The Basics

Getting there:
JetBlue has a non-stop out of JFK, we scored a deal via Twitter, where the airline pushes out discount fares on Tuesdays via @JetBlue

Stay here:
We stayed at the Intercontinental on South Congress; it was a five minute walk away from the State House, 6th Street and warehouse district.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Where I've Been - Part 1

Even if you're a casual GCL reader, you will have noticed that I took an unexpected three-month break from blogging following a couple of months of infrequent posting. Long-story-short...

Actually, it's a fun, long story. Here we go.

Back in March I decided to leave my job and take a new one. Sure, millions of people -- even in this economy -- do that, and it's the way life works, right? Wrong. For me, leaving the job I had enjoyed for four years was about more than just taking a natural next step, it was an opportunity to seize money, stroke my ego and engage in a little bit of drama. I couldn't stop patting myself on the back for making a smart, strategic decision and for getting everything I thought I wanted all before the ripe old age of 30. This was to be my now, and I deserved it because, in my mind, I'm smarter than the average gay in PR and I had been waiting my turn for far too long to be recognized for my abilities.

So off I went. To peddle discount wares. To make something of myself and think big and different. I barely lasted three months.

Timing, as you know, is everything. And the only good thing that came out of my self-importance and job-hopping was that the realization that I needed to pull myself together and out of a bad situation right away came just before the start of summer. In the days leading up to Memorial Day weekend I decided I had had enough of not eating and spending endless happy hours dissecting cryptic feedback and passive aggressive behavior.

I decided to give myself the BEST. SUMMER. EVER.

Cue Katy Perry's "California Gurls," it's been a daisy-dukes-bikinis-on-top kind of summer for me.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

GCL is BACK and He is NOT Happy About this Islamic Center at Ground Zero Situation

It's been a while, hasn't it? I have lots to tell you dear reader (hi, James!) about where I've been over the last three months and what's been keeping me from blogging. I'll share full details later today.

In the meantime, what the hell is going on in this country? A blogger can't take a break to evaluate his career and focus on his abs without his hometown losing its darn mind. I'm talking about the City of New York's approval to erect an Islamic Community Center within a few blocks of Ground Zero. Allah sure is great, isn't he?

In a speech defending this ill-advised decision, Mayor Michael Bloomberg threw his hat into next year's Oscar race with a teary-eyed plea for tolerance and open-mindedness. A choice quote from the speech: "The attack [9-11] was an act of war - and our first responders defended not only our City but also our country and our Constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights - and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked." (Full text at HuffPo)

Correction, Mr. Mayor: our first responders and the civilians who either burned to death, suffocated, were pulverized or had to jump to their deaths did not die protecting our constitutional rights - they were murdered. They were murdered by adherents of a faith that spits in the face of our country's Judeo-Christian values every single time we make an overture of peace. What further proof do you and your cadre of yuppie, left-leaning fools need before you realize that it is impossible to integrate Islam into our society?

I ask you: who is going to lead the community outreach at this center? Will it be someone like Anwar Al-Awlaki, the Washington, D.C. imam whom the media cast a spotlight on in the wake of the 9-11 attacks as a voice of moderate, pro-America Islam? The same Anwar Al-Awalki who is now clamoring for the deaths of Americans from his perch in Yemen? (NYT) Or will it be someone like Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood solider who turned his arms on his fellow soldiers last year? (MSNBC) And who will this community center - err, madrasa - attract? Will it be the likes of American men who are happy to move to Pakistan, Somalia or Yemen to fight against Americans, like John Walker Lindh, or the Somali-Americans who have returned home to wage jihad (NYT)?

If we're so invested in honoring the memory of the fallen and the heroism of those who helped rebuild Ground Zero why can't we ensure that these people have adequate medical care today? Why was the health care bull for 9-11 workers shot down in Congress? (Politico) Listen up, Mr. Mayor - New Yorkers need healthcare, not a mosque or a shrine to Islam.

How dare our politicians hijack the idea of tolerance and open-mindedness so as to place terrorism and the faith that breeds it on a pedestal?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Our Collective Reflection in the Sparkle of a Tiara

Who would have thought that the schlack of the Miss USA pageant would serve as a mirror for Americans to look at themselves and the issues that affect our country? Yep, the sparkle of big white...teeth, the shimmer of flowing hair extensions and the radiance of spray-tanned flesh not only celebrate gay men's notion of femininity, they're also the heat index for our country's most pressing problems. Based on the outcome of last night's pageant, where Miss Michigan, a Lebanese immigrant, won the crown, it looks like the debate about what it means to be American is going to be a scorcher. While Americans are trying their darndest to not look at people of Middle Eastern descent with suspicion, boom! the new face of American beauty could easily get pulled over in Arizona for a review of her immigration documents or be detained for a thorough once-over by the TSA.

You may recall the row that ensued last year between celeb-blogger Perez Hilton and Miss California, Carrie Prejean (she of lofty Christian values, silicone boobs and just-leaked coochie photos), who expressed an opinion against same-sex marriage. Hailed by the right and mauled by everyone else, Carrie didn't need to win a crown, she just got on the fast-track to political pundit status.

And so it goes this year, the year of suspicious packages and legalized racial profiling. If there's an issue America doesn't want to talk about, or, hell, if there's an issue America isn't talking about enough, Donald Trump's solution is to throw a bikini and a tiara on it. Well done, DT!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Arizona Lays Down the Gauntlet for Latinos Everywhere

Arizona has become the first state in the union to legalize racial profiling with the signing of a law to "identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants." (NYT) Signing the bill into law last Friday, Governor Jan Brewer has set off the outrage of Latinos and other conscientious Americans, not least the president, who take issue with the idea that cops can now stop anyone they suspect is in this country illegally, and fine and detain them if they fail to present proper documentation. (HuffPo)

So, Latinos, are your papeles in order?

It's shocking, isn't it, to watch elected officials with the support of their constituents enact hateful legislation right in front of our very eyes. The amount of time and money that has been poured into marginalizing one group and amplifying hysteria around an issue that will not go away speaks to the shortsightedness and bigotry that still exist in our government. As a Latino myself, I can't even imagine what I would say if some cop pulled me over on my way to work and asked to see my proof of residency. That's progress for ya.

True, Arizona has a high undocumented population and the state is the busiest illegal entry point along the U.S./Mexico border. With over 400,000 undocumented residents, yes, it's understandable that Arizona would want to address the strain on its resources and its identity - after all, how do you govern over a people who you don't even know are there? You've got close to half a million people under your watch whom you are morally and legally bound to serve and protect, but they have no obligation to you. From that perspective I understand the frustration of the people of Arizona.

These issues, however, all point to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. We can't apply martial law to the border, we can't just round up people based on the color of their skin and we can't just force everyone to wear their badge of citizenship. That's not what America is about. This isn't the former Soviet Union, this isn't Stasi-era East Germany, this isn't any Latin American country (pick one) under military rule. We're a country of visionary leadership, of innovative solutions - why haven't we been able to come up with a process to bring undocumented residents into the legal system, tax them appropriately and bring them from the shadows into our society? They're already here, they're already working (most of them), so what other choice do we have that doesn't compromise the principles on which this country was founded?

Our own hate and mistrust will be our undoing. This legislation in Arizona is frightening and needs to be challenged. Who's for a march on AZ?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sometimes Extreme Parallels Make Sense, Sometimes They Don't

You gotta love our country. When we're not busy electing an African American man to our highest office, we're celebrating the memory of the armed forces who battled to keep POTUS' great great grandparents in slavery. Well, the state of Virginia is. And that, as you can imagine, has worked everyone into a lather. CNN's Roland Martin, an African American man himself, called the celebration akin to to honoring Nazi soldiers, or Muslim extremists. Makes perfect sense to me. While soldiers on both sides of the Civil War had less than progressive views on the status of black Americans, it was the Confederate Army that was mostly invested in keeping slavery as a force of industry for South. While the Nazis ultimately sought to wipe out the world's Jewish population, both the Nazis and the Confederate Army find their reason for being in the victimization of a perceived lesser people.

While we're stewing over this latest breach on civility and common sense (to make matters worse, the Governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, thinks our most recent national outrage over the issue of slavery and the Confederate Army "doesn't amount to diddly" - Source: WashPo), there's been another affront to our morality. This one involves the Catholic church and its history of turning a blind eye to pedophile priests. One of the church's most out-spoken critics is the brilliant Maureen Dowd at the New York Times, but in her latest opinion piece, "Worlds Without Women," she makes a parallel that I'm not too comfortable with. She equates the church with the same oppressive, patriarchal structure of Islam, going so far as to compare her experience as a Catholic with that of Saudi women who have very few rights in their own country.

She writes "I, too, belonged to an inbred and wealthy men’s club cloistered behind walls and disdaining modernity. I, too, remained part of an autocratic society that repressed women and ignored their progress in the secular world."

Now, I'm not even gonna try to spar with Maureen Dowd, but for all of the trespasses of the church, I think it's a huge, unfair leap to compare the experience of a Catholic woman who is free to show off her hair, her body and pursue a career without fear of being stoned to death, with that of women who, under the most strict interpretation of their faith, have little to no human value. Dowd's argument that the church's staunch position on family and the clergy has created generations of criminals is fair, but to say that the church is as repressive and outdated as fundamentalist Islam is slander. After all, we have yet to see rogue Christians flying airplanes into office buildings.

Let's just be careful, then, with the parallels we draw to interpret current events - and events in our own lives for that matter. No one likes a drama queen.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Yep, I'm Gonna Write About Ricky Martin could i not? I've been obsessed with him since he landed smack on the windshield of a video vixen's convertible on the Champs Elysees while singing "Maria." (Sorry, my Menudo memories aren't that clear). Back then, when I was all of 16 and a gangly bundle of angst, Ricky Martin represented everything I wanted to be: handsome, sophisticated, and light years away from the stoop I used to hang out on in Brooklyn.

Of course, the fact that I was a budding homosexual made the fascination with him all the more intense, so much so that I literally went into hysterics when I caught the flu in my senior year of high school and was forced to skip an autograph signing for the "Vuelve" album at the Virgin Megastore. That my parents both felt compelled to console me and buy the album for me while I sobbed and watched a two-hour special about Ricky on Univision seems to have escaped their memory when I revealed my truth to them a few years later. That, and the brilliant, spontaneous performance of "Maria" that I presented my grandparents with at their 50th wedding anniversary in Colombia.

Through the years I never bristled at the rumors about Ricky's sexuality. Even in my wildest dreams I remained sufficiently pragmatic to know that if Ricky really did go my way he probably wouldn't go my way, and that was OK. If anything I daydreamed of being a part of his fabulous circle of fabulous Latinos. And while his popularity seemed to wane among American audiences, I, along with millions of Latinos, remained a die-hard fan (I can honestly tell you that his Unplugged album, released in 2006, is genius.) Gay or not, Ricky does no wrong in my eyes.

So when my mom called me last week to ask me if I had checked "el Twitter" to read about Ricky's big news (yep, he's gay), I was like, "sorry mami, I'm trying to hold on to the new job I landed, I'll have to check el Twitter later."

But the more I think about it, the happier I am for my role model and his two kids. Coming out, privately or publicly, is a journey that can only be dictated by the person himself...there's no such thing as taking too long to do it. G'ahead Ricky!

Friday, March 26, 2010

It's the Republicans Who Should be Scared of the Tea Party

It seems no one in Washington, whether they're a Democrat or Republican, is spared from the public's wrath in the wake of healthcare reform. Wait until the first Tuesday in November, both parties have been warned, the nation's capital is in for another shake-up. The Democrats argue that Republicans are on the wrong side of history and that voters, energized and thankful for healthcare and other social reforms, will vote the donkey party back into another majority of both houses of Congress. Republicans counter that Americans are fed up with big government and the liberal excesses of Obama-nation.

Spicy rhetoric aside, Americans are faced with three choices for government:

1 - A liberal, socially-conscientious system that focuses on inclusion and improvement
2 - A conservative, self-righteous system that aims to keep everyone in their place
3 - The Tea Party, you know, the one whose spiritual leader is Sarah Palin

We all know which way America is leaning.

While the Democrats definitely have their work cut out for them and have to shift their focus back to issues of national security and those two wars we're fighting overseas, it's the Republicans who ought to be scared. Not scared of the Democrats, mind you - they've already lost that battle. No, the Republicans should be afraid of the Tea Party. That rogue group could either drag the GOP into the far right fringes of political and religious extremism or force them to return to their core values of fiscal prudence. Either way, the GOP is pants-down in this situation. At the moment, they're a caricature of a party forced into a serious reckoning with the lowest common denominator of political debate.

Meanwhile, that "hopey changey" thing is working out for the Dems just fine.

Monday, March 22, 2010

On Healthcare: It's Good to be Polarizing

Yes he did! President Obama's efforts to introduce a health care reform bill finally paid off last night. A narrow 219-212 vote will now send a healthcare reform bill to the President's desk, after a year of contentious debate that many still think may be the undoing of the Democratic party. As for President Obama, it's certainly curtains for his bipartisan approach to leadership. With a resounding "no" from the GOP, the President and the Democrats must lead the charge for healthcare reform, and it would seem every other major national issue, alone. Is this leadership or tyranny?

If the Democrats have put their necks out on the line in favor of the lofty ideal of granting access to healthcare to more Americans (32 million more of them), so too have the Republicans with all of their fear mongering (death panels! socialism! niggers and faggots!) and their staunch commitment to being the party of "no." This time around the Republicans have lost and all they're left with is a tea party, bitter words, and the hope of divine retribution come November.

The Democrats, and our President, have certainly taken a beating over the last few months. Many, including yours truly, wondered if healthcare was worth undoing all of the progress the party had made over the last two years. Would healthcare, we wondered, send Obama down the path of Jimmy Carter, rendering him a visionary thinker but ineffective leader? It even seemed as if the media, the same people who some say were complicit in placing Obama in power, were reveling in his plummeting approval ratings and the increasingly loud din of the tea party movement.

But here we are, with a momentous victory that casts a ray of hope yet again on the future of the American spirit. Our country has started a new chapter in our narrative, one that is relentlessly optimistic and very much in line with the vision that our country was founded on. A huge gamble was made and we're all the better for the outcome.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Yes, GCL is Still Alive

Dear Readers,

No, I haven't abandoned the blog. Though I should, right? I mean, the Dems just can't get anything right and that Obama, God bless him, he's beyond any sort of help that my little piece of cyber space can offer. With that in mind, I've taken an unofficial break from blogging - James and I took a little vacation and then I went and got myself a new job. Actually, James got a new job too, so we've been all sorts of fun these days second guessing ourselves and fretting over this new chapter in our lives. Anyway, please bear with me for another few days and GCL will be back, stronger than ever. Promise.

Monday, March 01, 2010

(Not) Talking Mom (and myself) off the Ledge

Just weeks after a massive earthquake struck Haiti, the headlines herald doom and gloom yet again for another nation in the Americas. This time around, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake has struck Chile, triggering aftershocks and tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific. It's only natural, of course, for anyone to be scared and upset by these events, but when you believe that natural phenomena are a sign of the Apocalypse - the end of the world - well, then, how do you remain calm?

Picture it: Saturday morning - after hearing the news of the Chile disaster - I found myself playing hopscotch across the mine field that is my mother's faith and her interpretation of the Bible and world events. "This is it, oh my God, the end is upon us," she'll moan, and after listening to her sob and pray out loud I hear a hasty "I'll call you later" and then a dial tone. By this point, after narrating in Spanish to me what CNN is saying (as I'm watching it in my home), my mother needs a more immediate, visible reaction from an audience, so she hangs up on me to work my father and my brother into a lather. Which means that in two minutes I'll get another phone call, deriding them for not playing along - err, caring about what's going in the world - and then I reassure my mom that I am very much a Christian, and yes, I do believe this is a sign of things to come.

It's a conversation that never gets old for either of us, given our penchant for the dramatic and mutual love of wine. For us, natural disaster + white zinfandel = we're all going to hell in a handbasket, starting with my "stupid" father and my "useless" brother.

I should know better. I shouldn't poke at crazy and make it dance, but I can't help it. For all I've read in school and learned in the world, I shouldn't be so preoccupied with the end of the world, but I am. Call me provincial, accuse me of being scared of eclipses and snowflakes, I don't care. Believing that these horrible events aren't random, but in fact part of a bigger plan, helps me cope with the uncertainty of life in these modern times. Besides, what else would I talk about with mami?

Monday, February 08, 2010

2008 Redux: Sarah Palin

Why settle for being a half-wit VP nominee when you can become a movement? Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska turned FOX News talking head, is now the spiritual leader of the Tea Party Movement and homegirl is fired up and ready to go.

At the movement's first ever national convention this past weekend, Sarah came out swinging at President Obama, "how's that hopey-changey thing workin' for you?" (NYT) she asked, followed by "we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law."

Such spunk for someone who was barely a Governor and who is barely literate. If you think I'm being a liberal bully, I strongly encourage you to read "Game Change," which chronicles (yes, in a dishy kinda way) the ups and downs of the 2008 Presidential race with a startling portrait of Palin's incompetence and insolence.

As much as one would like to poke fun at Palin and her merry band of nasty Americans who see conspiracy and death panels lurking where other, more even-keeled citizens see an opportunity for our country to live to its full potential as a haven for freedom and responsible government, the threat she poses is very real. She's got an eye on 2012 and let me tell you, we could very well re-live a Reagan-Carter upset if the Dems don't wop this bitch upside the head.

If you thought the Bush years created a fissure in the American conscience, Palin and the Tea Baggers are poised to tear our nation to shreds, leaving no one spared in their wake, with flags waving and guns a'blazin'. While they claim to be looking forward, the group has no identity lest it looks back - back to the ubris of 2008 when anything seemed possible as the White House was up for grabs, and even farther back to colonial times. The Dems own vision and forward-thinking, let's not give it up so easily to a photogenic, preening ne'er do well with a shrill voice and hum-dinger sound bites.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How the Right got Haiti all Wrong

One would think that images of mass destruction would render even the most cynical political commentators toward compassion, but then you'd be wrong. In the wake of last week's devastating earthquake in Haiti, right wing zealots are praising the Lord for casting his might on a people who "made a pact with the devil" (Pat Robertson, you cheeky monkey) and decrying the politicking of President Obama, who is offering aid as a way to gain points with America's blacks (back from the brink of death, that was Rush Limbaugh's take on the disaster).

While the images out of Haiti become increasingly disturbing and heart wrenching, the aftermath of the earthquake has been a sidebar piece for FOX News and their non-stop coverage of the Massachusetts senate race (which, sadly, was lost by Democrat Martha Coakley). Republicans can't be bothered with natural disasters or healthcare - thank God that Todd Brown is now taking Ted Kennedy's seat to drive a sword right through the barely beating heart of Obama-care, err, healthcare.

Once again the GOP, through its most vociferous personalities, have shown themselves to be the party of avarice, scorn and blind prejudice. While their pundits have been blasting the dems for reckless spending - the kind which the GOP will admit cost them their own house majority back in 06 - they forget that the elections that ultimately ushered Barack Obama into office also followed the GOP's disastrous and callous handling of Hurricane Katrina. The American people were truly outraged by the devastation they saw on our shores and the incompetence of our leaders to handle it. Not to mention that a war famously declared to be a "mission accomplished" by then President Bush in 2003 was really only getting started. But what's a little history when there are new crises to be ignored?

**Saturday, Jan 23: My bad, I mistakenly referred to Massachusett's new senator as Todd Brown, his name is Scott Brown and I should know better. I write these posts so damn early that sometimes a major detail like that slips through the cracks. Sorry!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Fine Mess for Harry Reid

Republicans are calling for senate majority leader Harry Reid's head over remarks made about President Obama in an upcoming book about the historic election. Reid, the democrat senator from Nevada, told writers Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, authors of "Game Change" (out tomorrow) that “He (Reid) was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama - a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.'"(Source: CNN)

Well at least Reid was pleased with the outcome of the election. And while it always stings people of color to be praised by white people whenever we don't sound, well, colored, Reid isn't speaking an un-truth. Had Obama sounded more BET than NPR, and looked more like Al Roker than Bryant Gumble, we'd be singing Hail to the Chief to either John McCain or Hillary Clinton. Americans may have been ready for change, but they weren't going to give the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to anyone just 'cuz they was black.

Call it racism or ignorance, Reid's comments don't just illustrate the way some white people view color, they also capture how some blacks and browns view color as well. From the paper bag tests of yore that determined membership into the Jack and Jill club, an exclusive social club for African Americans (you had to be lighter than a paper bag to get into the club, in addition to being educated and well-off)to the million and one things some people of color do to look lighter (whiter), lots of blacks and browns are not only obsessed with color, but with the dilution of color and all of its negative connotations. Don't believe me? Read Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye (true story: I had to read it every year between sophomore year of high school and my sophomore year of college).

But now the chairman of the RNC, a black man himself, wants Reid to resign. In spite of Reid's apologies, which the president has accepted, and in spite of the fact that, well, there are other things going on in the world that merit both parties' attention. That's just beltway chicanery. If a black republican is get the joke.

Reid's comments are unfortunate, but they're the unabashed truth in a dialogue that we're all having about color and class.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

For Gays, Christians and Muslims are the Same Kind of Crazy

Happy New Year, dear readers. In case you've been too busy digging for clues about Carrie Bradshaw's whereabouts in the Sex and the City 2 trailer to turn on CNN or read a newspaper, let me bring you up to speed on the specter of current events: the world is coming to an end. Al Qaeda has reminded us that they are still at war with the civilized world and on the opposite end of the crazy spectrum, it has now been revealed that American evangelical Christians have set the stage for the lynching of gay men and women in Africa.

If you're gay, you have little choice but to dismiss religion altogether. Then you would become, like yours truly, a self-righteous blowhard who looks inward for divine affirmation. Between the radical muslims who'd kill you for any reason, and the crazy Christians who want to divest you of any legal standing in this world (lynching by bureaucracy, if you will), anyone with a brain can deduce that religion will be the undoing of civilization.

Now, I can't take credit for this original thought. As you know, I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness and one of the things we were taught to look for as a sign of the end of this world (not the physical world, mind you, but the mechanics of a system that propagates war, poverty, greed, and so on...) was the unraveling of religion's prominence in world affairs. Soon, we were taught, mankind would feel defrauded by religion, offended by the presence of religious figures at the seat of political discourse, disgusted by the role that spiritual leaders have played in massacres and hate movements. Mankind will turn on religion, and then, poof - the end of this world. And of course there are other philosophers, scholars and bloggers who have waxed on the scourge of organized religion as well. So perhaps we're getting there, to that point where we lose any tolerance for the nuissance that is organized religion.

Which then begs the question: what do we do about problematic religions? Do we shut down the mega churches of the Bible Belt? Do we shut down our country's mosques and deny visas to anyone who is muslim or from a muslim country?

Tempting as all of this may be, that's not what civilization is about. We're meant to get through this, to struggle through the challenges of terrorism and religious fanaticism to become a better, more enlightened people. Not that we haven't had thousands of years to get better at getting along, but it's nice to keep trying.