3 elections that scarred me

In my lifetime, 3 elections have scarred me, made unalterable gashes on my soul. The first was the midterm election of 1994, when Newt and his gang took out their contract on “America”. I ash been out for less than three years, and it was a visceral reminder of how much the country hated me and my values. 

The second was the presidential election of 2000. Like a lot of liberal Democrats, I bought the Naderite line that Gore wasn’t materially different from Bush. But instead of voting for Nader, I just stayed home. Histories of the 2000 election that say that Nader didn’t cost Gore the election fail to take into account the widespread demoralization Nader effected among those of us who would’ve voted Democrat. Nader’s foolishness kept us home on Election Day, and we got the Iraq War out of that.

Now we’re facing this monstrous ugliness from Trump and the GOP base, and I’m reminded again that a significant portion of U.S. citizenry hates me, my values, and life in a multicultural society with a president who isn’t a white str8 male. We’re seeing the most disgusting, morally repugnant elements feeling emboldened to raise their voices and assert their aspirations to take over our country for their own filthy ends. Even after we elect Hillary they will continue to make trouble, probably even wreak violence on our country until they are quelled forever.

But the thing that disturbs me about these elections, about the scars they’ve left on my soul, is how my thinking about elections and governmental power have been reduced to a Manichaean dichotomy. My natural inclination is to see the world not in black and white, but with nuance, shading, and vivid coloration. I don’t believe the Universe is divided between pure Good and pure Evil. But our recent elections and the increasing polarization of the parties have left me rooting for morally suspect persons (not Hillary, but rather some of the down-ticket candidates). I don’t get the luxury of dealing with the candidates with subtlety any longer. If my side doesn’t win a given election, then I lose and my values are set back. This disgusts me. And yet, I cannot afford the stance of opting out and not voting, because that only serves to aid my enemies. This election is demoralizing and yet we must continue to participate.

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Hillary 2016

The single most important and consequential thing a president can do is appoint justices to the Supreme Court. Justices have lifetime appointments, and ever single controversial piece of legislation comes before them for review. SCOTUS therefore can not just determine the extent of LGBT rights, but our lives as well. Therefore it has always been imperative that a Democrat occupy the White House. A Republican in the White House is literally a threat to LGBT lives. And any one person or group of persons who either support putting a Republican in the White House or hinder a Democrat from winning the White House is a direct threat on my person. That’s why I view the continued campaign of Bernie Sanders and his acolytes as nothing short of a direct threat on my person. Anyone not planning on supporting Hillary this fall is a Trump operative, whether they mean to be or not.

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mgid uma image logotv.com 11762850My thoughts following the mass execution at Pulse in Orlando, FL.

1. Historically, and for many LGBTQ people still today, gay bars and night clubs are our sanctuaries, the only places we can go to and let ourselves be ourselves. Bars and clubs are far more than locations for entertainment. They are our sanctuaries. The attack in Orlando was an attack at the heart of our community.

2. This attack has been called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, but sadly, that is not true. That distinction still belongs to the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890, when 150 men, women, and children were murdered in cold blood. We must not erase Native history when we mourn current events.

3. This is not the time for renewed Islamophobia. A distinct brand of Islam-related violence runs through our world, but violence, hate and prejudice have been associated with all major religions, even the Buddhists (google “Rohingya”). The Qur’an no more sanctions this kind of violence than does the Bible. Please try to understand this.

4. This hatred of LGBTQ people is not specific to Islam, but it is endemic in the U.S. today, and is on a continuum that includes the anti-gay marriage laws, the anti-trans bathroom laws, and the hateful rhetoric our preachers and politicians spew on a daily basis. Know your real enemies.

5. Yes, indeed, the gun laws are far too lax. We must institute rigorous background checks, end the gun show loopholes, ban automatic weapons and large clips, keep guns out of the hands of those on the terror watch lists, etc. But unfortunately, like a lot of issues in the U.S., guns have become a totem of our tribalism. The Right fetishizes them, and the Left rejects them altogether. I sometimes wonder whether the Left has essentially crippled itself in the face of upcoming future conflicts by fully disarming itself.

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Who am I?

I’ve acknowledged before that I think most people are faking their way through life, and no one really knows what to do, but they keep trying and they are sometimes successful at their next steps. It has occured to me that who I am and who I think I am are two different people. Which leads me to wonder: have I been downplaying my strengths and emphasizing my weaknesses, all out of a vain attempt to alter how people see me?

When I was a kid, I was physically weak and easily intimidated. I had asthma, and in the moist air conditions of East Texas, that was a real burden. And this being a small town in Texas, athleticism was everything. My only refuge was reading, and only in feeling smarter than most of my peers did I have any measure of self-esteem. Sometimes I even thought I was a genius.

I was not a genius. I was a prodigy. A prodigy learns more before his peers, but eventually his peers catch up to him. Worse, if he isn’t recognized as such, he will fail to develop the necessary life skills needed to keep him even with his peers once they catch up. In other words, if learning comes too easy to him early on, he doesn’t develop the discipline to continue to push himself later in life, the discipline his peers used to catch up with him.

So I ended up kind of mediocre in adulthood. Smart, but not smart enough to make a real impact, and not disciplined enough to do much more than report to work every day and pay my bills on time. But since I’d spent my formative years being smarter than most, in my adulthood I was burdened with the self-image of still being smarter than most. My persona, so I thought, was being the “smart guy”.

But if that persona was false, what is the true persona? What are my real strengths, the aspects of myself that make me useful to the world? Do I have any real positive qualities? If I do, are they enough to build a working persona?

These issues are salient to me because I find that in the past decade, my pool of close friends has contracted, and my pool of potential dating partners has vanished, and I wonder if I can possibly, for lack of a better word, market myself better to the world. If I cannot, I will end up alone, or worse. How do I re-evaluate myself, find what I’m “good for” and use that to make the world a better place and my life more connected to other people? Is it too late?

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Books patch a hole

Last night I finished reading my 60th book for 2015. (If you want to see what I’ve read, click here.) I’ll probably get in another 2 books before the end of the year, even if I make a strong effort to spend more time reading the piles of magazines I have built up. This is by far the most books I’ve read in a year, and while some were short (e.g.: Visions of Gerard, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Pen & Ink, etc.) several of the books I read were very long (e.g., City of God, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, The Sagas of Icelanders, etc.). The truth is I spent a lot more time reading books this year.

There are several reasons why I did this (I have too many books and feel guilty, I tried to take some time away from wasting it on television and shopping, etc.). But the main reason is this: I’m using books to patch up the hole in my life that I thought would be filled with love.

About a year ago it hit me that I was very likely never to be in love again, much less be in a relationship, and that if I wanted to keep going in life, I needed some kind of driving purpose. Now, I’ve read enough existentialist psychology to know that having an overarching, lifelong purpose is almost never workable. People change, times change, etc. But one can have a purpose in the moment, and having such a purpose keeps one going for that moment. I’ve chosen to fill those moments with pages of text.

That doesn’t mean my life still isn’t out of wack. It just means I’ve found a way to limp along for the time being. Work to keep a roof over my and Manuel’s heads, and afterwards time spent reading the ginormous piles of books I have lying around. That’s what we do for now.

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3 years sober

More on that later, perhaps.

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White gay male entitlement: what happens now?

As we head toward the 2016 election, there is as much drama on the Right as on the Left. It’s interesting to watch what’s basically an angry White male rebellion embodied in Trump revolting not just against the general US population, but against it’s own party establishment. Trump leads because he says whatever stuff comes to his head, most of which is “un-P.C.”, and the entitled White males love it. The White males feel their entitlement is threatened, and they are going to war with a scorched earth enthusiasm to try and maintain it.

What I’m curious to see is where White gay males will go with this. Will they side with POCs, women, trans, and other marginalized groups, or will they cast their lots with the entitled str8 White males? TBH, based on what I’ve seen in recent years, I’m not very optimistic. The moment we started winning wider acceptance, the White male contingent of LGBTQI pulled up stakes and high-tailed it for the burbs. Their economic emigration gutted the gayborhoods, leaving LGBTQIs of color with no safe space. They’ve ignored or even worked against the social, racial, and economic uplift of POCs. They’ve continued the erasure of POCs from gay history.

Once they won marriage rights, it seems to me they considered the struggle over, and have expatriated to the far-flung exurbs to live in domestic bliss. Which raises the question: what good were they in the first place?

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