Tag Archives: Military

Treason and the Embracing of Fascism

30 Jul

I have spent many weeks working on this particular article, as it has been eating at me and has been the cause of great consternation. While I typically do not reach out to 45’s base supporters, I am reaching out now, as I am exceedingly nonplussed. My observations are that continued support of 45 in the wake of his behavior in the last two years provides overwhelming evidence of a disturbing embracing of fascism and a complete lack of understanding of how a democracy operates, not to mention the overwhelming evidence of how racism unites a huge portion of the population in the United States.

In the past two years we have witnessed such sociopathic behavior from 45 and the entire GOP and what we have witnessed can’t be undone–it cannot be taken back. We now have to look at how do we repair the monumental damage done by this administration and all of you who colluded with this nefarious behavior. Here is just a minuscule list of the damaging and unacceptable behavior that is moving to deteriorate and dismantle our democracy: 45 endorsed and campaigned for Roy Moore who raped countless women and girls–how on earth do you move forward after that? How is that acceptable behavior? While campaigning, 45 mocked a reporter with disabilities–for me, I was certain this would have been the end of his campaign, but the American people sadly proved me wrong and said it was okay to mock people with disabilities. His base further disappointed me by saying it is acceptable for men to grab women by their genitals. I don’t know how any of you readers were raised, but I was raised with respect for human decency and all of 45’s behavior and the collusion and support by the entire GOP fly in the face of human decency.

Another breaking point was the separating of children from their families and placing children in cages in camps. When we learned that one particular child with Down syndrome was separated from his family, FOX correspondent Corey Lewandowski mocked the child and family with his pathetic “womp, womp.” Honestly, how does one bounce back from this behavior? Have you no decency Mr. Lewandowski? Have you no empathy? I grow fearful and exhausted by 45’s base who shout: “if you break the law, you get separated from your family.” Sadly, you all don’t seem to understand how the law works and how applying for asylum works, or what due process means. One has to be on American soil to fill out the paper work to apply for asylum and should not be separated from one’s family and then is entitled to due process.

Now let us talk about treason.  While 45 works to alienate our allies and insults Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, demonstrates unbelievably boorish behavior to the Queen of England, and then praises oppressive dictators like Kim Jung Un seems like a dystopian piece of fiction, but sadly it is our reality. His private meeting with Puppet Master Vlad Putin is more than just problematic, it is in fact treason. 45 said: “It is U.S. foolishness and stupidity and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in US relations with Russia,” all of this in the face of the evidence that Russia was involved in disrupting our democratic process. Then to make matters worse, 45 has now invited the Puppet Master to come to DC for another private meeting. Why are we not collectively freaking out over this? Why have charges of treason not been filed?

Moving on to more examples of behavior that you can’t take back–behavior that painfully demonstrates that 45 and the entire GOP display the very worst of humanity. 45 and his administration are currently trying to purge all current soldiers who are impacted by HIV.  Even more disgusting is that 45 is diverting Ryan White funds that are designated to help those impacted by HIV to separate children from families. The very unstable 45 has now also threatened Iran with war.  Is this who we are as a nation? The sad answer is YES–this is who we have devolved to as a nation. It is not a small wonder that we have lost any respect from our allies around the globe.

In my 51 years of living, never did I imagine I would witness the nation embracing Fascism, but alas here we are. Fascism is the embracing and subscription to an authoritarian government that does not allow for opposing views; it vilifies the free press and demonizes opposing voices as “enemies of the state.” There is a strong push towards nationalism and great disdain for economic equality, rampant misogyny, and disdain for the arts and intellectuals — disdain for human rights. All decision making is from a unilateral voice without a system of check and balances, and fraudulent elections.

Call to action: I worry that those of you who remain in 45’s seemingly implacable base, your legacy is one of hate, racism, homophobia, misogyny, and fear. Please prove me wrong. I implore all of us to reflect and show ourselves and the world we are better than this. I want America to weep no more. For all of us in the Resistance, please practice self-care. For me, I am watching Netflix and Kim’s Convenience.

Difficult to Mourn: Rev. Fred Phelps Dead at 84

20 Mar

fred-phelpsI just learned that the infamous leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., died yesterday.  Phelps, who will be best remembered for his legacy of hate, such as: “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “Thank God for 9/11,” because all of those deaths were “God’s punishment” for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.  Those of us in the LGBTQ community and our allies would usually hear his name and cringe, thanks to all of the damage he has done to our community.

Typically, Phelps and his family could be seen holding huge signs that read: “God Hates Fags.”  Phelps’ picketing of the late Matthew Shepard‘s funeral catapulted him and his organization into the national spotlight.

While I will forever hold a space of sadness for all the lives he hurt, I have to say that I am holding a space of sadness for Phelps.  What an awful legacy he leaves — a legacy that now he has no chance of doing any repair.  He will always be remembered as a man of hate — a reputation he worked hard to earn.

I can only hope as we reflect on his passing, that we also reflect on what it means to preach such vitriol.  My experience has been that people who have the most difficulty with LGBTQ folk, are usually battling their own internalized homophobia.

Call to action: I also hope that with Phelps passing we look at institutional and structural power that works to target and disenfranchise LGBTQ people.  How do we make a difference and make the lives of LGBTQ people easier? How do we enlist our allies to help us pressure those in power to create policies that create equity and equality?

I suspect there will not be many mourners of Phelps; that is quite sad.  Sad because he leaves only a legacy of hate. I invite everyone to reflect: What do you want your legacy to be?

Update: March 25, 2014:

Nathan Phelps, son of the late Fred Phelps, released a rather compassionate statement regarding the passing of his father. I have included a particularly poignant excerpt from his statement:

The lessons of my father were not unique to him, nor will this be the last we hear of his words, which are echoed from pulpits as close as other churches in Topeka, Kansas, where WBC headquarters remain, and as far away as Uganda. Let’s end the support of hateful and divisive teachings describing the LGBT community as “less than,” “sinful,” or “abnormal.” Embrace the LGBT community as our equals, our true brothers and sisters, by promoting equal rights for everyone, without exception. My father was a man of action, and I implore us all to embrace that small portion of his faulty legacy by doing the same.

It is nice to see that some type of repair work is being done by Nathan.

Bigot of the Week Award: September 6, Texas National Guard

6 Sep
Bigot of the Week:Texas Weak, Texas Pathetic

Bigot of the Week:
Texas Weak, Texas Pathetic

Thank you to my dear friend and LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey, and Arturo Schultz, for inspiring me to write about this week’s Bigot.  Despite the Death of DOMA, Texas wants to create its own laws and refuses to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision. Recent actions by the Texas National Guard refuse to treat LGBT people as equal citizens of the United States.  Yet again we see Texas on the wrong side of history.  Lest we forget the misogynistic Rick Perry beaten back by the amazing Wendy Davis.

Sadly, The Texas National Guard refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits on Tuesday,  September 3, 2013.  Despite a Pentagon directive to honor these requests, they tried to justify this discrimination by citing the state constitution’s ban on gay marriage. Interestingly enough, Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, wrote in a letter, …”the Texas Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, his state agency couldn’t process applications from gay and lesbian couples.”  However, in this rather convoluted state of confusion, he added that ” the Texas National Guard, Texas Air Guard and Texas State Guard would not deny anyone benefits.”  How to reconcile these statements is unclear. And incidentally, what about the rest of the LGBT population in Texas?

To my surprise and delight, National guard officials in Florida, Michigan and Oklahoma – all states that ban marriage equality for LGBT couples – said they will follow federal law.  I say with a great sigh, when will the rest of the South and the rest of country abide by Federal Law and work towards equality and equity for all LGBT people?

While I am able to enjoy and appreciate the steps towards progress, I cannot rest in that place. When do each of us actively work to stand in solidarity with all targeted people? When do we say enough to racism, homophobia, misogyny, and when do we pull together to eradicate poverty and look at a more equitable distribution of wealth?

Hero of the Week Award: June 7, Marcel Neergaard

7 Jun
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Proving decisively that you’re never too young to make a difference, this week’s hero spoke his mind and made a real change. Marcel Neergaard is 11 years old. He is also gay. He lives in Tennessee and was so mistreated and abused in school that his parents are home-schooling him now. The Neergaard family was horrified to learn who StudentsFirst had named as their 2012 Reformer of the Year: Rep. John Ragan. Ragan is the author of the nasty “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would ban any reference to homosexuality in Tennessee schools.

Marcel decided to do something about it. With his parents help, he created a MoveOn.org petition demanding that the award be rescinded. He also recorded an impassioned, articulate video about the harm that Ragan and his ilk do.

During my first year in middle school, I experienced severe bullying. I was called terrible names that were quite hurtful. At that time, I had just realized that I’m gay, and the bullies used the word “gay” as an insult. This made me feel like being gay was horrible, but my parents told me otherwise. Their support was tremendous. But as powerful as their love was, it couldn’t fight off all the bullying. I don’t want anyone else to feel the way I did. No one deserves that much pain, no matter who they are. This was my reason for writing the petition.

Wow!  How impressive is Marcel here?  The story has a happy ending. Months of pressure from LGBT activist groups did nothing to sway StudentsFirst. Marcel Neergaard was more successful. Within days, the group rescinded the award and issued a statement supporting Federal anti-bullying legislation. Says Neergaard,

It seemed like the right thing to do, and the fact that there’s a chance to not do that sounded like you were saying, ‘Yeah, I was bullied and I’m going to let those bullies win.’ It’s giving up to them. It’s giving up to myself.

What an amazing young man! The world needs more people like him.

Honorable mention this week goes to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). During hearings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the military’s disgusting record of dealing with sexual assault and rape, the senators demanded action. As the commanders offered excuses and dodged issues of reporting and prosecution, McCaskill let them have it.

I don’t care how good a pilot it is, I don’t care how good a Special Ops person it is. Their ability to perform as a soldier or an airman or a member of the Coast Guard is irrelevant to whether or not they committed a crime.

Gillibrand was equally firm, noting the extent to which the problem is embedded in military culture.

You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you that you will actually bring justice in these cases.

Thank you, Senators, for speaking truth to power!

Announcing the Clarence Thomas Award for Sexual Misconduct

16 May

ThomasDoDRecent events in the U.S. Military have led to the creation of a new SJFA award! Named in dishonor of (In)Justice Clarence Thomas, who blamed the victim, distorted the truth, and winked and nodded his way into a lifetime appointment — at the expense of Anita Hill — this award will be announced irregularly when any person or organization qualifies. A combination of monumental misogyny, callous disregard, and overt sexual hostility are the requirements. Sadly, we may see awards far more often than we would like.

Since the inclusion of women in the military, sexual assault and forced prostitution have been very real problems. Over the past decade or so, as women have moved into positions of greater authority, the Pentagon has indicated the intent to address the issue. Sadly, two recent events prove that whatever they are doing isn’t working. (Perhaps they’ve been taking strategic advice from the Catholic Church…)

Last week, an Air Force officer was charged with sexual battery; this week an Army Sergeant First Class is being investigated for forcing at least one subordinate soldier into prostitution, and for sexually assaulting two other soldiers. The common thread? Both were in positions of authority and power to investigate and prevent sexual assault!  Maybe they just didn’t read the job descriptions properly.

Based on the ongoing problems faced by LGBT personnel since the repeal of DADT and the shocking lack of effective health training for women, it’s clear that the U.S. Military is still living in the 1920s before all that equality stuff got in the way. The Pentagon must provide real leadership, and real consequences, to change the culture or the behavior will never change. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, is demanding such change.

It is time to get serious and get to work reforming the military justice system that clearly isn’t working. I believe strongly that to create the kind of real reform that will make a difference we must remove the chain of command from the decision making process for these types of serious offenses.

Sounds like it’s time to send a woman in to get the job done right.

Hero of the Week Award: October 12, Barbara Doherty

12 Oct

Hero of the Week

It takes great courage and conviction to stand up to the misbehavior of a major national figure. It takes great strength to rise above personal tragedy to stand up for what is right. This week TSM is proud to honor a woman who did both, thus earning her HWA.

Barbara Doherty’s son Glen was a Navy SEAL, one of four Americans killed in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. She and her family were understandably proud of his service and grieving his loss. They issued a brief statement for the press and then tried to find a private space for their grief. Enter Mitt Romney.

Not content with his outright lies and opportunism on the day of the attacks, Mitt decided to exploit Glen Doherty’s death all over again. The Romneybot met the SEAL at a Christmas party. After Doherty’s death, the soulless candidate started dropping his name in campaign speeches in a “heroes I have known” sort of speech. Barbara Doherty would have none of it and demanded that Mendacious Mitt stop using her son to attack the President he was proud to serve.

I don’t trust Romney. He shouldn’t make my son’s death part of his political agenda. It’s wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.

Bravo, Ms. Doherty! Thank you for standing up to power and demanding justice. Even better, the story has a happy ending. Apparently the Romney campaign had a shame circuit installed in their candidate (after the debate…) He has agreed not to refer to Glen Doherty in any future campaign activities. Score one for human decency.

Birth Certificates and Tax Returns…

24 Jul

Starring Mitt Romney as the Mad Hatter.

I am rather bemused at the Mitt (I’m a liar, Romney) and his attack on Democrats asking for an explanation of his tax returns.  The hypocrisy is palpable.  There are still Tea Baggers that are wanting a full investigation of President Obama’s birth certificate.

The whole birth certificate debacle, rooted in racism, is such a horrible mar on our country’s history and leaves me embarrassed for those bigoted Tea Baggers that started this bitter brew of tea.  Romney, who seems to currently be playing The Mad Hatter hosting the Tea Party, is hiding his tax returns and thus creating quite the mystery as to the reason for refusing disclosure and transparency, leaving Americans to wonder why.

Could it be that Americans will discover even more incriminating information about Romney’s Bain Capital? Might we discover that Romney has made significant donations to overturn Roe v. Wade?  Might it be something as nefarious as we will learn that Romney donated millions of dollars to Prop Hate  in California, thus discriminating against the LGBTQ community?

Ultimately, I’m exceedingly sad that many Americans are not able to see through the very shallow, vapid, and narcissistic Romney, who has made it clear he wants to be President just to satisfy his enormous ego and is willing to whore himself out at all cost to reach his goal–not the qualities of a world leader.  Unlike President Obama who has already established himself as a world leader who leads with integrity and a sense of compassion for the marginalized and underserved. President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality demonstrates the strength of his character and his dedication to civil rights! The Romneybot’s shallow pandering, on the other hand, should leave voters wondering when they’ll wind up being the next thing strapped to the top of his car…

Bigot of the Week Award: November 11, The Spectre of DADT

11 Nov

This Week's Bigot's Victims

Even with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell going into full effect, LGBT members of the military face continued pain and oppression. As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, it is worth noting the irony that one segment of the population that served to defend our nation is still subject to second class treatment. TSM questions the value of war and military intervention as the solution to problems. That being said, the military is a major employer and its treatment of its past and present employees has a long way to go.

The end of DADT changed the military’s policy, but much work is needed to change its culture. As Leonardo Lucio, a Navy reservist and NoH8 activist, recounts, even though he can serve openly, he is regularly subjected to gay taunts and slurs by his fellow service members. Veterans who were given dishonorable discharges in the days even before DADT are not eligible for benefits, regardless of how well they served their country, often solely because of who they are. (Kudos to Richard Pan of the California Assembly who is trying to ensure that this practice is overturned at least as far as state benefits!) Even when benefits are available, veterans can be subject to horrible abuse. Esther Garatie, 28, a former Marine lance corporal who lives in Dallas, sought treatment for depression at her local VA hospital; she was subjected to a tirade by the nurse, who told her she was depressed because of her “lifestyle of sin.”  Sadly, thousands of stories like these exist.

LGBT service members and veterans are the employees and retirees of our government. They deserve freedom from discrimination as much as any of the rest of us. Lifting the irrational ban on service was a positive step. We won’t be able to truly acknowledge their service, however, until the climate in which they serve can be purged of antiquated, hateful attitudes and behaviors.

Why I’m Still Supporting President Obama

3 Oct

Obama 2012

After talking with many of my intelligent, thinking, compassionate friends in Georgia this past week, who are quite fearful of all of the bigoted GOP candidates, and after reading one of Towleroad’s best articles, I felt I had to chime in about why I’m still supporting President Obama.

When I reflect back on the past three years, I am rather ashamed of the United States as a whole, specifically of the Teahaddists and the Birthers, who have given a new and explosively loud voice to blatant racism. I reflect on the civil rights that President Obama has fought for in the face of grotesque misogyny and homophobia, the face of John Boehner and his “Super” congress. I don’t think that word means what they think it means.

President Obama has worked to ensure all Americans have health insurance, like any civilized nation would.  He worked hard to repeal DADT, in the demonic face of John McCain.  President Obama also continues to promote the repealing of Clinton’s legacy, DOMA.  He also: introduced hate crime legislation, lifted the travel ban on people with HIV (a Bush Sr. legacy), worked for hospital visitation rights for same-sex partners, and introduced the “first comprehensive national strategy” to combat HIV/AIDS. I was also glad to see that Obama helped make it easier for our transgender brothers and sisters to change their passports. He has also spoken out against the rash of bullying-related suicides of LGBT youth, including making a Presidential It Gets Better video.

While I’m somewhat disappointed that Obama has not called out the racists’ bad behavior, I am exceedingly happy that he did call out the nothing less than monstrous behavior of the GOP Presidential candidates for their deafening silence during the debate:

We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders – one of whom could end up being the President of the United States – being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens… You want to be Commander-in-Chief?  You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.

I can’t help but reflect that if this incident had occurred at a Democratic debate, the people that booed and the candidate would have been pursued out of the theater by torch-wielding villagers.  We should not forget the candidates’ silence when people were cheering for Death when given the option of helping or a 30 year old man or letting him die at the first GOP debate.

Yes, I do want a President that stands up for civil rights for all!  A leader who stands up for civil rights here at home also sends the message to the rest of the world that all of us must stand up to oppression where ever we see it. Click here to see Towleroad’s article.

Mark O. Hatfield: The Loss of a True Leader

11 Aug

Oregon's Great Statesman

On Sunday, August 7, Senator Mark Hatfield died at the age of 89. A native Oregonian, he exemplified the independent spirit for which the state is famous. As a moderate Republican (who called himself a Liberal), he was also a symbol of the complex political tensions in our purple state. More than these, however, he was one of the last of a dying breed, a true leader and independent thinker with strong convictions and an understanding of the art of negotiation.

Hatfield was a man of charisma and principles. This blending catapulted him into public service at a young age and helped ensure that he never lost an election. The Senator often reflected on the power of faith in his life. While this is not uncommon for modern Republicans (or Democrats, frankly), his approach was much more honest and benevolent. He accepted that he was a religious person but that others might not be. He used his faith to inform his values, not to build a wall of opposition.

This foundation led him to select the Republican party early in his career due to concerns about the rampant racism among the Southern leaders in the Democratic party. That’s right, he actually understood the messages of Christianity and used them to practice fair treatment for all. Throughout his career, Hatfield voted for (and actively supported) civil rights legislation and fought discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. His support of rights for the LGBT community was an integral part of his support of civil rights dating back to the late 1950s (more than a decade before Stonewall) and extending to his co-sponsorship of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 1994, making him a quiet, consistent pioneer.

Another strong influence on Hatfield was his arrival in Japan during his military service at the end of WWII. Arriving in Hiroshima, he saw atrocities that confirmed his opposition to war and military action. During his time in the Senate he opposed all military action including Viet Nam and the first Gulf war. This stand cost him politically; he was on the short list to be Richard Nixon’s first running mate, but his stand on Viet Nam blocked him. Despite this, he held firm, and his stand on principle helped him maintain the respect of his colleagues and his positions of responsibility in the Senate.

Hatfield’s least progressive stand was on abortion rights. Athough he was personally opposed to abortion, he was complex and intelligent enough to understand the issue beyond his own wishes. He was generally supportive of women’s rights to make their own choices. Unlike the rabid conservatives of today, he also believed in readily available health care and birth control, understanding the link between those programs and a reduced need for abortion. He established the first statewide birth control program in Oregon while governor. These actions, together with his opposition to the death penalty and to funding wars, make him someone who could accurately be described as both “pro-life” and “pro-choice” a rare combination.

Hatfield truly cared more about doing the right thing for his constituents than making his party happy. More than once during his career he was threatened by primary challenges from the right, but his integrity and accomplishments always allowed him to prevail. This was true right up to his last election. When interviewed about his opposition to school prayer, term limits, and a balanced budget amendment (all key themes of the Gingrich-era Republican revolution), he rolled his eyes and answered with his typical straightforward honesty.

These are all symbols, and the Republicans will beat the drums and get a lot of pizzazz going because they have fed the public a line about these things. But to present them as if they are the answers and solutions to our nation’s problems is just phony.

Well said, Mr. Senator. You will be missed.

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