Thursday, July 9, 2009

Women and Children First on the Titanic, Invisible in the Media

This past week, celebrity deaths have consumed US media outlets, from the breaking news on CNN of Michael Jackson's "golden casket" on its way to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, to the numerous press conferences about the murder of NFL quarterback Steve McNair. Nevermind that former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was detained in Israel, that bombs were being dropped in Iraq and Afghanistan (among other places), that President Obama was visiting Russia, and that the G8 Summit is being held this week in Italy. All that seems to matter these days is the exuberant celebration and investigations into deaths of celebrities. Even a news conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not exempt from this "MJ Madness," as Pelosi fielded a question about the significance Michael Jackson's death.

Invisible to the proliferation of stories on Michael Jackson and Steve McNair are the voices of women and children. Jackson's inappropriate relationships with minors have been widely known for years, yet it took 11 days until this discussion became public, when Pete King, a Republican representative from New York's 3rd Congressional District, dared to speak out against the media circus exalting a known pedophile.

McNair, a married 36-year-old was shot and killed by his 20-year-old girlfriend Sahel Kazemi, who also shot herself. McNair was a married father of four with more than one girlfriend on the side (reportedly unbenownst to his wife). As with the Jackson case, McNair's infidelities are not discussed, and the name of his girlfriend is rarely mentioned.

Pete King asked the question, "what does it say about us as a country?" when he spoke at an American Legion Hall in Wantagh, New York. I call on the major media outlets to answer this question, to take somewhat of an "inventory" of themselves, questioning their motives of elevating and exalting a known child molester and an infidelitous husband. The children that Michael Jackson molested have been rendered invisible by the media (except when they sing his songs). The woman that Steve McNair kept hidden from his wife (whom he betrayed) is invisible, and the reasons behind her drastic acts have yet to be discussed. And why? Because women and children are still, in 2009, invisible, unimportant, and unworthy of having a voice.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage - Before Prop 8

I wrote this a year ago (May 19, 2008), when the California Supreme Court overturned a state statute that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. This was pre-Prop 8, but still feeling relevant:

So the California Supreme Court overturned a California statue that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. And, as happens when any barrier is removed, there are fervent responses from all sides. The so-called "defenders of the family" are in an uproar to "defend marriage" (I'ma come back to this in a minute). The supporters of same-sex marriage (SSM) are applauding CA. Those who don't necessarily agree with SSM but don't think they should have a say in other's marriages are saying "whatever." And of course, those seeking same-sex marriage are super pumped and probably planning trips to California before the November elections. Radical queers are frustrated with a movement that is focusing on an issue that benefits only a few, especially because marriage is a part of a greater structural system and contributes to the oppression of those whose relationships do not fit into the narrowly defined category of marriage. And I know I'm leaving out parts of the discussion. Feel free to fill in any blanks.

The radical queer in me tends to fit into the latter category. When I'm wearing my radical queer hat, I think the state sanctioning of a religious ritual or personal relationship is ridiculous. It only benefits those who choose a certain path, minimizing the experiences and denying tax breaks for those who are not in committed, opposite-sex (except MA and CA) relationships. This includes single parents, polyamorists, same-sex couples, anyone who's single, swingers, and anyone else who just doesn't fit into the structurally defined "marriage," "common-law marriage," "domestic partnership," or "civil union." Furthermore, people are starving. Homeless. Without health care. Water. Safety. Civil liberties. We live in a nation that can't sustain itself (well, it can, it just won't try). We destroy lives and economies in other nations just so we can live in luxury. We support regimes that slaughter people by the thousands (then we take them to war and slaughter even more people, all in the name of democracy). So really. Why all this fuss about same-sex marriage? Aren't there more important things? Isn't capitalism and patriarchy (and capitalist patriarchy and patriarchal capitalism) in need of demolishing?

The half radical/half liberal queer in me just doesn't understand why the LGBT movement is so focused on marriage when members of our community are homeless and jobless, when our queer youth are getting kicked out of shelters and struggling with bullying on a day-to-day basis, when so many Americans don't have health care, when diseases are destroying peoples' lives, when our culture centers around excessive drinking and drugging and we wonder why we have higher alcoholism and addiction rates (i know i'm leaving a lot out). Our community is becoming more divided. Us younger queers don't hold the reverence for our elders nor for the queer community that once made us unique. The older queers don't understand us. Racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, classism, and elitism are rampant in the LGBT community. We are in DIRE need of some solidarity and a shift in the focus of our energies if we are ever to go anywhere. Oh. And I DO NOT support the HRC.

Then there's the part of me that's in a committed, same-sex relationship. I want all the benefits afforded to my straight peers. I see a lot of my friends around me getting married, and want what they have. I'm selfish, I admit it. I want my relationship treated as equal in the eyes of the law (and in the eyes of my entire family and my partner's family, but that's never gonna happen). And since the eradication of civil marriage doesn't seem likely, I want marriage equality in the eyes of the LAW.

"But," to quote Andrea Gibson, "the fuckers say we can't." And I don't get it. State sanctioning of SSM will not force churches to perform SSM. Churches still refuse to marry those of differing religions or denominations, different races, or for whatever reason a pastor/priest/whatever decides that a couple isn't fit for marriage in that place of worship. Furthermore, same-sex marriages are performed all the time in places of worship that allow for them, and in personal ceremonies that celebrate the marriage/commitment/relationship of a same-sex couple. So I hate to break the news to the radical right, but we are already getting married. We just don't get the same tax breaks.

There are three main arguments given against state-sanctioning of SSM-Biblical, historical, and for the sake of our children. In the Biblical sense (pun not intended), people argue that the Bible condemns homosexuality and defines marriage as one man and one woman. The former is true (although contextually this is arguable, but I'm not going to get into that now)-the Bible does condemn sex between men (it also condemns a lot of other things, like wearing mixed blended fabric).

However, the Bible does not define marriage as between one man and one woman. Let me repeat: NOWHERE in the Bible is marriage explicitly defined as between one man and one woman. There are examples of marriages between one man and one woman, but there are also several other different forms of marriage. These include: one man and several wives, a man and his female rape victim, a man and his servant or servants, a man and his slave or slaves, a man and female prisoners of war (I feel like I'm leaving something out...). Even the father of the 12 Tribes of Israel didn't have the "traditional" two-parent household-he married two sisters and then two of his servants. So, the Biblical argument doesn't hold. Period. If the radical right wants to use the Bible to fight for traditional marriage, they need to fight for all forms of Biblical marriage if they don't want to be hypocrites. Why are they only choosing this one form of marriage? And why are they using the Bible anyways? Whatever happened to the "wall of separation?" The Bible and Christian ideology/"morals" have no place in the legal definition of marriage.

Opponents of same-sex marriage are also arguing that marriage has been historically between a man and a woman, and serves in the interest of maintaining a healthy home for the future of children. NOT TRUE. Marriage has come in many many forms, and has historically been for the sake of maintaining and passing down property to males in future generations.

The last argument-"for the sake of the children" (I can't come up with anything else at the moment...)-is also ridiculous. To begin with, most gays I know (sorry I haven't really read the literature on this) have straight parents. A lot of gay parents I know have straight children. Kids in straight homes and gay homes alike are abused, maltreated, exposed to drugs, sex, alcoholism, and inappropriate behavior. Kids get teased on the playground for things ranging from weird parents, weird teeth, lack of size or strength, lack of athletic ability, tomboyishness, poverty, etc. The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all support same-sex adoption and marriage, because it BENEFITS children.

So, basically, opponents of same-sex marriage also need to work for the following things: polygamy, marriage between a rapist and a rape victim (instead of incarceration of rapists), an end to divorce, the ability to take multiple prisoners of war as wives, an end to playground bullying, an end to child abuse (for the sake of the children), a re-establishment of property being handed down through children, etc. Same-sex marriage is only the tip of their iceberg.

When I moved to Denver for graduate school, my cousin's 8-year-old was really confused that my partner wasn't moving with me (she had her life and her school back in St. Louis). My cousin said that she thought of us as she did her married aunts and uncles. The 8-year-old gets it. She doesn't see a difference. Only we do.

I'm planning on getting married someday. I don't care if the government sanctions it. I'll still have a ceremony, file all my taxes as if I were married, "forget" to put the company's portion of health care as my or my partner's income on my income taxes (or delete them if included), and do whatever I can to work the system.

But the system must be changed. Our queer movement needs change. We need to focus on more important things, as do our rivals. Let's end poverty, let's make sure everyone has health care, let's make sure that everyone has a place to live and food on their table, let's make sure that child abuse and partner violence get eradicated, let's end violence, let's end our dependency on oil, let's become more sustainable and less dependent on import/export economies. But we can't do any of this with a narrow focus on marriage. We need to broaden our perspectives to include our entire global family. Let's create real change and do something that will make a real difference.

The Moderate/Radical Paradox

After many years of (sorta) maintaining blogs with little consistency, mixed with political rants and a little too much personal information, I've decided to start a blog that's sole purpose is to express my moderate radical viewpoints.

I consider myself radical, because I believe that we live in a system that needs drastic, revolutionary change. I believe that progress will never come if we do not seek out the roots of injustice within intersecting capitalist, racist, xenophobic, sexist, and heterosexist systems (hereafter "the systems"). I believe that the intersecting systems are the roots of injustice, and their historical and structural flaws, combined with (and created from) human nature, have created society's to the ills of society.

I consider myself moderate for a few reasons. I live in a monogamous, same-sex relationship, conforming to the relationship/family model that is conservative in nature and practice. I have been in many activist groups that have attempted to eradicate themselves of structural inequalities only to fall prey to other inequalities (or simply lust for power, i.e. racism within radical feminism), or find themselves unable to accomplish much, thus I do not believe that so-called "radical" groups are the key to revolution. I believe that people have the right to their own opinions, regardless of how they may contribute to the perpetuation of the system. I believe that radical social action, such as sit-ins, rallies, marches, etc., no longer hold much validity within larger society, and only serve to energize the people who are taking part in the action (which, I believe, is important). I believe that abortion is bordering on something immoral, but I also believe that my viewpoints on this issue are personal and morality-based, and therefore have no place in the law. I am very supportive of the Pro-Choice movement, but I believe that it lacks a proponent that takes morality into account. I believe that the only way change will happen is through a safe environment where people are allowed to have their opinions, be exposed to others' opinions, and develop relationships of tolerance and acceptance of each other.

I believe that the drastic revolutionary change we need will not happen within my lifetime, because most revolutions end up shifting oppression instead of eradicating it. I believe in the power of personal relationship building, as I believe that honest personal relationships are the most powerful tool we have in opening people up to wider viewpoints.

The paradox of my moderate radicalism is confusing, and I still have a hard time explaining it. I hope later posts help to express my viewpoints in a way that people can understand.