Thursday, August 6, 2020

Statue of Limitations



This is going to be a controversial topic, but it is one that I want to address for a very specific reason. In the US Capitol, the National Statuary Hall is a collection of 100 statues contributed by 50 states, two statues each. Last month the House of Representatives voted to banish from the Capitol statues of Confederate figures and leaders, part of a broader effort to remove historical symbols of racism and oppression from public spaces. Senate Republicans are refusing to address the issue because they claim that it is up to the states to choose who is represented in the National Statuary Hall. Some of the statues never belonged at the Capitol in the first place, such as Jefferson Davis (CSA Pres.; Mississippi), Alexander Stephens (CSA VP; Georgia) or Robert E Lee (CSA Gen.; Virginia). However, at least one of the statues that the House wants removed are of people who I think redeemed themselves after their service to the Confederacy. 

 

Joseph Wheeler (Alabama), who was a West Point graduate, resigned from the U.S. Army to serve as a general in the Confederate Army and was considered one of its top cavalry leaders. However, Wheeler later represented Alabama for eight terms as a Democrat in the House. While in Congress, Wheeler worked to heal the breach between the North and the South after the Civil War and championed economic policies that would help rebuild the Southern states. At the age of 61, he volunteered for the Spanish–American War, receiving an appointment to major general of volunteers from President William McKinley. During the war, he was in command of Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, and then served in the Philippine-American War, where he left the volunteer service and was commissioned a brigadier general in the regular army, reentering the organization he had resigned from over 39 years before. I will admit that the statue should be replaced, because it portrays Wheeler in his Confederate uniform, but I think it should be replaced with a new statue of Wheeler. 

 

Honestly, the rest can go. The only other one that comes close to being redeemable is that of US Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward Douglass White. White enlisted in the Confederate Army and was captured by Union forces in 1865. After the Civil War, he served in the state Senate and U.S. Senate before President Grover Cleveland nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1894. He became chief justice in 1910 and served in that position until his death in 1921. However, White’s record on race during his time on the Supreme Court is mixed at best. He sided with the Supreme Court majority in Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld the legality of state segregation to provide "separate but equal" public facilities in the United States, despite protections of the Fourteenth Amendment to equal protection of the laws. In one of several challenges to Southern states' grandfather clauses, used to disfranchise African-American voters at the turn of the century, he wrote for a unanimous court in Guinn v. United States, which struck down many Southern states' grandfather clauses. 

 

Some statues of Confederates have already been removed. One of those is that of Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, who formerly was one of Alabama’s statues. His statue was removed in 2009 and replaced with one of Helen Keller. Curry was removed because he was deemed racist and a former Confederate. Here’s the issue though, Curry did serve in the Confederate Army, but after the war, he was president of Howard College, now Samford University in Birmingham. Also, after the war he studied for the ministry and became a preacher, but the focus of his work for the rest of his life was free education in the South. His pro-slavery speeches from before the Civil War and membership in the Confederate House of Representatives may demonstrate strong ties to the southern cause; however, his efforts to promote education for Blacks during the Reconstruction era up through the end of the 19th century are reflective of ideals that were not shared by many of his contemporaries. The statue was removed anyway, and maybe Helen Keller is a better representation for Alabama.

 

This brings me to the inspiration for this post. The North Carolina legislature has voted to replace a statue of former North Carolina Gov. Charles Brantley Aycock, who is perhaps best known today for his campaigns to advance white supremacy. I agree it should be replaced. The problem is who North Carolina wants to represent the state instead. North Carolina wants to replace Aycock with a statue of the evangelical preacher Billy Graham.  Graham may have been the spiritual advisor to every U.S. president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama before his death in 2018, but he wasn’t known for welcoming all people into Christianity. In 1973, he said that homosexuality is a “sinister form of perversion” in his advice column, responding to a girl who wrote in and said she was in love with another girl. “We traffic in homosexuality at the peril of spiritual welfare,” he wrote. “Your affection for another of your own sex is misdirected and will be judged by God’s holy standards.” He then claimed that the U.S. “applauded” homosexuality because “morals have so eroded” and advised the girl to be “converted” and that “such reformation is possible for you.”

 

In 1993, he said that AIDS was “God’s punishment” for homosexuality. “I could not say for sure, but I think so,” he said. Two weeks later he retracted the remark, saying, "I don't believe that, and I don't know why I said it," but we all know why he said it. He believed it. Graham also opposed same-sex marriage, and in 2012 he took out full-page ads in favor of North Carolina Amendment 1 which banned it in North Carolina. Graham's stated position was that he did not want to talk about homosexuality as a political issue. Corky Siemaszko, writing for NBC News, noted that after the 1993 incident, Graham "largely steered clear of the subject." Graham may have kept mostly silent publicly after the 1993 incident, but it’s obvious he must not have privately. His son, who is now CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and of Samaritan's Purse, is one of the most virulent homophobic men in America. He is also a major Trump supporter. One example of his vitriol towards gay people came when he attacked former presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg. Graham attacked Buttigieg for his homosexuality and marriage to another gay man in April 2019, tweeting "Mayor Buttigieg says he's a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women."  Franklin has kept his father’s website which still says that sex is sin unless it’s “within a marriage between a man and a woman” and that the Bible “speaks only negatively of homosexual behavior whenever it is mentioned.”

 

So, here is my question: Why is it acceptable to place a statue of an extremely influential homophobe in the National Statuary Hall in this day and age?

 

The answer is simple. What it boils down to is this: within American politics, it is still acceptable by many to be homophobic, but from many of the same people it is not acceptable to be a racist. What is the difference? The difference is that with all the gains the LGBTQ+ community have made, we are still second-class citizens and the religious right wants to keep it that way. For many out there, LGBTQ+ lives do not matter. It is inherently wrong to be either racist or homophobic. Americans must realize that. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Pic of the Day


Dating in Vermont


Dealing with the quarantine and not having a semblance of a social life anymore (not that I had much of one to begin with) makes you really contemplate your loneliness at times. Before I moved to Vermont, I had actually begun to date men on a regular basis, some I even went out with multiple times. Most of my life has been spent going on one date and never hearing from the person again. However, things had really and truly begun to change. I had a boyfriend that I cared about, and it looked like it would be a long-term thing. Then, I got exiled to Vermont. I have tried to have a dating life up here, but I’ve never been successful.

 

One of the first dates I went on was with a doctor. When we met, he seemed a bit standoffish, but I went ahead with the date. It was at his home on Lake Champlain. The date was a disaster. First, he fed me leftovers, when he’d originally told me he was taking me out to dinner. Then he dropped the bombshell on me. He told me that he could not date someone who was not skinny and in good shape. He had apparently mistaken me for a picture on my blog. I am pretty straightforward that no picture of me exists on my blog, and that I am not in the best shape. I am always straightforward about things, at least I’ve always thought I was. After he said that, I should have just left, but I guess I am too polite for that. To add insult to injury, he apparently decided that I needed exercise because he took me for a walk on a trail along the lake. Don’t mistake this as a romantic stroll because he lectured me the whole time on proper nutrition and exercise. I finally left and never saw his sorry ass again. He was not very attractive and had no room too judge. He was also much older than he had told me he was.

 

A lot of the time, the dates I’ve gone on have been much nicer. We seem to get along great and the conversation flows easily. I am a shy person, but once I start talking and get comfortable, I can usually carry on a pretty good conversation. However, it seems that after every date I have been on, whatever chemistry it seemed we had falls apart. He or I might text that we had a great time together and that we should see each other again. The guys almost always seem positive about the first date, but then, I never hear from them again. I did see one guy for a few times, but he was not romantically interested. He just wanted a friend. One time, I went on a date with a drag queen. I had seen her perform a few nights before, and then I saw her online (I think it was Grindr, don’t judge). He and I set up a date and met in Montpelier. The date did not start off well. There was a snowstorm coming in and every restaurant in town apparently closed early that night. We finally found one that was open. It was kind of comical at the time, and I guess still is. We had a nice meal and good conversation, but it was apparent to both of us that this would be a friendship and not a romantic relationship. Before the pandemic, we often saw each other at various events. She was often hosting the events as her drag persona, but she always said hello and if she was available, we usually carried on a conversation.

 

And speaking of Grindr and those type of apps, I rarely ever use them because it’s always the same 5-10 men, several of which are students at the university where I work (we are not allowed to fraternize with the students). When it seems like I do meet someone on an app or a dating site, they usually just want a hook-up, no surprise there.  I’ll admit, I am not always opposed to that, but I don’t like to host for a number of reasons. I don’t want a stranger in my apartment, partly because stranger upset Isabella. Also, they often live far away, and 99 times out of 100, they say they can’t host, which always sends up red flags. Furthermore, my walls are a little thin, and kids have a bedroom below me. I would not want to disturb them with sex noises. I know, I’m practicing a double standard about not hosting, but it’s just something I don’t like to do. I once hooked up with a guy when I was living in Mississippi. He couldn’t host, so I did invite him over only to find out in the middle of sex that he was married and had kids.

 

When I first moved to Vermont, I checked out Grindr to see what it was like around here, and I met a guy who lived about two blocks away. He had just told his roommate, who apparently was constantly bringing girls over, that he couldn’t host girls anymore. He didn’t want to break the rule he’d just made, so I did let him come over. The sex was freaking amazing. He possessed the most beautiful butt of any man I’ve ever hooked up with, and I was the top this time. By the way, maybe TMI, but I am versatile. Everything seemed to go well, we really seemed to hit it off more than just sex. However, the same old story, he never responded to me again. I did run into him a few times around campus, because he also worked at the university, but for a long time, he seemed to act as if he didn’t see me or know me. The strange thing is, fast-forward four years later, he adds me as a friend on Facebook. Now, every time he sees me, he is very friendly and always says hello and calls me by name. I find it all a bit odd and don’t know what to make of it.

 

There was one instance of a guy wanting to get together again, but there were a couple of problems I had on this occasion. First, he was a very heavy pot smoker, which is something that triggers my migraines. Second, he lived too far away. It was quite a drive down there because I had to go over the mountains (I also got lost going home because there was no cell signal and my GPS wouldn’t work). We “watched” a movie while I was there, which was fine, but since we were doing things besides paying attention to the movie, I was somewhat undressed when not only his nearly adult son came barging into the house with his girlfriend but also his wife came walking in. I never figured out if he was divorced or just separated, but that’s not the point. So, while they settled in to smoke a little weed with dear old dad, I had a pillow over my lap covering myself up because I didn’t have enough time to get my pants back on correctly. I had pulled my pants up, but not everything was in place nor could I fasten my pants discreetly, so I had to use a pillow to shield myself. He wanted to see more of me, but I decided it would not work out and told him that I didn’t think that would happen because he lived so far away.

 

So, my dating life in Vermont has sucked. When it seems I have found someone that I want to spend more time with and get to know better, they never respond or if they do respond, which a few have, they are not interested. I don’t know what I do wrong or what is wrong with me. I do wish I was in better shape, but dammit, I am a nice and loveable person who just wants to find someone who loves me back. I’m tired of getting constantly rejected, especially after being told what a great time they had and how they want to get together again. It makes you just want to give up even looking. When rejection like that happens, I just want to scream at them, “Fuck you, you fucking fuck.” I saw that on a t-shirt once, and it pretty much sums up how I feel toward some people. Of course, I am not confrontational, and I try never to be mean, so I would never say it, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to say it. There are a lot of things that scream in my mind that thankfully I never utter. I really hate when people thinks it’s okay to insult someone for no reason, especially when they give the excuse, “Well, I’m just being honest. There’s nothing wrong with that.” There is something wrong with it. You’re fucking being rude, mean, and condescending. It happens online a lot.

 

I know we all want that handsome man to sweep us off our feet, but I don’t think that I am so unattractive as to never deserve to be given a chance. Honestly, I think the gay community holds people to too high of a standard of appearance, and we won’t even get started on the perception of age. But there are gay couples out there who are not the most perfect looking couple. They love each other just the way they are. I know that I am probably perpetuating the standard of male beauty with the pictures I post on this blog; however, they are fantasies and don’t really represent the average man. Many of them are probably airbrushed to look better than they actually look. It’s like that with porn. Men in porn are more well-endowed than the average man, and they often perform sex that is unrealistic. It may be hot to watch, but it is still a fantasy. Those men are paid professionally to perform entertaining sex on camera, and models are paid to look beautiful in front of a camera. Neither are realistic, and sometimes that standard of beauty isn’t even achievable for some of us.

 

How many of you have ever been chatting with a guy online and you trade pictures with him, then all of a sudden, the conversation ends? You seemed to be getting along so well, but as soon as he realizes you are not the ideal that he want, it’s all over. I would suspect that most of those instances go like this: you saw his picture and (honestly) thought that he was not the best looking person or maybe he’s not in the best shape, but you seemed to have a connection, so you don’t really care how he looks. That has happened to me. When a guy was very good looking, it was usually a catfish. The truth is, I have met a lot of men who were unrealistically shallow and for no good reason. They want an ideal that they don’t fit themselves. I try to be realistic in my approach to men. I admit that I have not always been that way. At one time, I was young, had a head full of dark brown hair, and was in decent shape, but that was before I spent five years teaching spoiled rich kids in grades 7-12. Now, I am older, I have mostly gray hair which I am losing, and I’m not in the best of shape. I know I could try harder to look better, but I have always found that really difficult if you didn’t have a workout partner to keep you on track.

 

I just want to find someone to love me for me. I am an intelligent and kind person. I may not look like the perfect specimen of man, but I don’t think I am the ugliest man alive either. I think I have a lot to contribute to a relationship. People love to say that there is someone out there for everyone. If the adage is even true, the problem with it is that the person may live far away from you. I’m honestly afraid I will never find the person that is out there for me. He may just not exist. I just don’t want to be alone the rest of my life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Pic of the Day


An Elegy Wrote in a Country Churchyard



Warning: This is a long poem, but one of the most famous of the eighteenth century. The importance of this poem and the reason for choosing it is in the comments below.

 

An Elegy Wrote in a Country Churchyard

By Thomas Gray

 

The Curfeu tolls the Knell of parting Day,
The lowing Herd wind slowly o'er the Lea,
The Plow-man homeward plods his weary Way,
And leaves the World to Darkness, and to me.

Now fades the glimmering Landscape on the Sight,
And all the Air a solemn Stillness holds;
Save where the Beetle wheels his droning Flight,
And drowsy Tinklings lull the distant Folds.

Save that from yonder Ivy-mantled Tow'r
The mopeing Owl does to the Moon complain
Of such, as wand'ring near her sacred Bow'r,
Molest her ancient solitary Reign.

Beneath those rugged Elms, that Yew-Tree's Shade,
Where heaves the Turf in many a mould'ring Heap,
Each in his narrow Cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the Hamlet sleep.

The breezy Call of Incense-breathing Morn,
The Swallow twitt'ring from the Straw-built Shed,
The Cock's shrill Clarion, or the echoing Horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly Bed.

For them no more the blazing Hearth shall burn,
Or busy Houswife ply her Evening Care:
No Children run to lisp their Sire's Return,
Or climb his Knees the envied Kiss to share.

Oft did the Harvest to their Sickle yield,
Their Furrow oft the stubborn Glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their Team afield!
How bow'd the Woods beneath their sturdy Stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful Toil,
Their homely Joys, and Destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful Smile,
The short and simple Annals of the Poor.

The Boast of Heraldry, the Pomp of Pow'r,
And all that Beauty, all that Wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable Hour.
The Paths of Glory lead but to the Grave.

Forgive, ye proud, th' involuntary Fault,
If Memory to these no Trophies raise,
Where thro' the long-drawn Isle and fretted Vault
The pealing Anthem swells the Note of Praise.

Can storied Urn or animated Bust
Back to its Mansion call the fleeting Breath?
Can Honour's Voice provoke the silent Dust,
Or Flatt'ry sooth the dull cold Ear of Death!

Perhaps in this neglected Spot is laid
Some Heart once pregnant with celestial Fire,
Hands that the rod of Empire might have sway'd,
Or wak'd to Extacy the living Lyre.

But Knowledge to their Eyes her ample Page
Rich with the Spoils of Time did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble Rage,
And froze the genial Current of the Soul.

Full many a Gem of purest Ray serene
The dark unfathom'd Caves of Ocean bear:
Full many a Flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its Sweetness on the desart Air.

Some Village-Hampden, that with dauntless Breast
The little Tyrant of his Fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his Country's Blood.

Th' Applause of list'ning Senates to command,
The Threats of Pain and Ruin to despise,
To scatter Plenty o'er a smiling Land,
And read their Hist'ry in a Nation's Eyes,

Their Lot forbad: nor circumscrib'd alone
Their growing Virtues, but their Crimes confin'd;
Forbad to wade through Slaughter to a Throne,
And shut the Gates of Mercy on Mankind;

The struggling Pangs of conscious Truth to hide,
To quench the Blushes of ingenuous Shame,
Or heap the Shrine of Luxury and Pride
With Incense, kindled at the Muse's Flame.

Far from the madding Crowd's ignoble Strife,
Their sober Wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd Vale of Life
They kept the noiseless Tenor of their Way.

Yet ev'n these Bones from Insult to protect
Some frail Memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth Rhimes and shapeless Sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing Tribute of a Sigh.

Their Name, their Years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse,
The Place of fame and Elegy supply:
And many a holy Text around she strews,
That teach the rustic Moralist to die.

For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious Being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm Precincts of the chearful Day,
Nor cast one longing ling'ring look behind!

On some fond Breast the parting Soul relies,
Some pious Drops the closing Eye requires;
Even from the Tomb the Voice of Nature cries
Awake, and faithful to her wonted Fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd Dead,
Dost in these lines their artless Tale relate;
If chance, by lonely Contemplation led,
Some hidden Spirit shall inquire thy Fate,

Haply some hoary-headed Swain may say,
"Oft have we seen him at the Peep of Dawn
Brushing with hasty Steps the Dews away
To meet the Sun upon the upland Lawn.

"There at the Foot of yonder nodding Beech
That wreathes its old fantastic Roots so high,
His listless Length at Noontide wou'd he stretch,
And pore upon the Brook that babbles by.

"Hard by yon Wood, now smiling as in Scorn,
Mutt'ring his wayward Fancies he wou'd rove;
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or craz'd with Care, or cross'd in hopeless Love.

"One Morn I miss'd him on the custom'd Hill,
Along the Heath and near his fav'rite Tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the Rill,
Nor up the Lawn, nor at the Wood was he.

"The next with Dirges due in sad Array,
Slow thro' the Church-way Path we saw him born.
Approach and read (for thou can'st read) the Lay,
Grav'd on the Stone, beneath yon aged Thorn."

THE EPITAPH.
Here rests his Head upon the Lap of Earth
A Youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown:
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble Birth,
And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.

Large was his Bounty, and his Soul sincere,
Heav'n did a Recompence as largely send:
He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a Tear:
He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a Friend.

No farther seek his Merits to disclose,
Or draw his Frailties from their dread Abode,
(There they alike in trembling Hope repose)
The Bosom of his Father and his God.

 

 

About the Poem

 

Thomas Gray's famous poem “An Elegy Wrote in a Country Churchyard” was written in 1750. The poem was composed at a time of change within English poetry when poets were trying to move away from the influence of John Milton and Edmund Spenser. While Gray avoids obvious imitation, there is no mistaking the Spenserian tone of a sober melancholy. The Elegy became the single most popular eighteenth-century poem, endlessly reprinted and eventually memorized by millions of schoolchildren. 

 

The poem's origins are unknown, but it is believed to have been partly inspired by Gray's thoughts following the death of the poet Richard West in 1742. Gray wrote a number of poems to West, expressing his love and his increasing agony over his sexuality. Both men were homosexual in a time when being a “sodomite” carried a possible death sentence if convicted. Critics have said that the depressive quality of the Elegy, which oddly makes it so pleasant to many readers, stems not merely from Gray’s specific grief at the loss of West (the “friend” of the epitaph) some fifteen years earlier, but also from the ongoing suppression of his homosexual identity. The nature of the speaker’s “sensibility” has come under renewed scrutiny, as several critics have argued that the term was virtually code for “homosexuality” at this time, and that the Elegy’s speaker finds in the unrealized potential of the dead a parallel for his own homosexual desires.

 

I chose this poem today because I have been reading Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King by Thomas J. Balcerski. The book looks at the friendship of the bachelor politicians James Buchanan (1791-1868) of Pennsylvania and William Rufus King (1786-1853) of Alabama which has excited much speculation through the years. Why did neither marry? Were they gay? Or was their relationship a very intimate, but not a romantic friendship. I am only about a third of the way through the book, but the life of King definitely seems suspicious.

 

King was one of the founders of Selma, Alabama, the state’s first U.S. Senator, and Vice President of the United States in 1853, a position he held for only 45 days. He is the only Vice President to take the oath of office outside of the United States and to never serve as Vice President in Washington. King was ill with tuberculosis and had traveled to Cuba in an effort to regain his health. Because of this, he was unable to make it back to Washington for the inauguration. Shortly after taking the oath of office, he returned to his home near Selma, where he died before returning to Washington to assume the vice presidency.

 

Like the poet Thomas Gray, King never married. Neither even seems to have formed any meaningful attachments to women. King always said that he had loved but once and could never love again. The story goes that in 1816, he became the Secretary of the Legation for William Pinkney during Pinkney's appointment as Minister to Russia and special diplomatic mission in Naples. While at the Court of St. Petersburg, King claimed that when he set his eyes on the future Czarina Maria Feodorovna, he instantly fell in love and almost committed a diplomatic faux pas when, as the King family tradition has it, he passionately kissed the hand of the future czarina, a risky move that could have landed him in serious jeopardy. This instance is the only time he admitted to having any romantic feelings for a woman, and it occurred halfway around the world where no one could confirm or deny the story. He would often relate this story when his bachelorhood was questioned.

 

King and Buchanan lived together for a number of years but separated when King became the U.S. Minister to France. King wrote Buchanan from Paris: “I am selfish enough to hope you will not be able to procure an associate who will cause you to feel no regret at our separation. For myself, I shall feel lonely in the midst of Paris, for here I shall have no Friend with whom I shall commune as with my own thoughts.”

 

Around the same time, Buchanan wrote a letter to a friend complaining about being alone and not being able to find the right gentleman partner:

 

“I am now ‘solitary and alone,’ having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.”

 

While Buchanan at times did try to find a wife, it appears that King never did. King was known to be one of the most fashionable and handsome men in Washington. He was also known to be very fastidious in his appearance. King was a lover of literature and often quoted poetry in his letters. In one such letter, he quoted the poem above. Being well versed in literature, King was likely to have known the same-sex desires alluded to in Gray’s “An Elegy Wrote in a Country Churchyard.” Rumors have circulated for nearly two hundred years that William Rufus King was gay, and I suspect there is some truth to the rumors. Buchanan on the other hand may have been bisexual, or he simply pursued women to further his political aspirations. However, both men were politicians in a Washington that had few women and bachelorhood was seen as an advantage because a man did not have a family to worry about at home. It was not until Andrew Jackson’s presidency that women began to come with their husbands to Washington and create an exclusive social atmosphere for the women of Washington’s political elite, an event that took many years to come to fruition.

 

Whether King and Buchanan were lovers or merely very intimate friends, they certainly turned heads at the time and fostered a great deal of speculation. Much of their letters to one another were destroyed by family members; however, the length and intimacy of the surviving letters illustrate the affection of a special friendship between King and Buchanan, with no way to know for certain whether it was a romantic relationship.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Pic of the Day


Fascist, or Authoritarian Wannabe?



When I was doing research for my PhD, I spent four weeks in Italy. It was truly a wonderful experience. I found Italians to be some of the kindest, friendliest, and most welcoming people I have ever met. However, one incident will always stick out in my mind. I was going somewhere in Rome, and I had taken the Rome Metro, which back then was only an X across the city (they were just beginning work on the C Line when I was there). I don’t remember where I was going that particular day, mainly because of what I ran into when I emerged from the Metro. The street was full of people marching and dressed in black. Angry shouts were coming from the sidewalks from people not dressed in black. One of those dressed in black walked up to me and put a leaflet in my hand. That’s when I realized I’d emerged someplace that I did not want to be. The leaflet was for one of Italy’s neo-facist organizations. I am not fluent in any language but English, but because I studied Spanish throughout my years in school and dabbled a little in French and Italian, I do have a familiarity with most Romance languages, and while I can’t speak any of them well, I can read enough to understand what I’m reading.


When I see the hate groups today marching in the streets of the United States and bolstered by our president, I do see similarities between that Italian neo-fascist parade and what we see today in the United States. The biggest difference is that the Italians were mostly peaceful, the American versions are not. The American hate groups are armed and threatening. While the neo-fascists in Italy had very little representation in the government, we not only have a president that supports them but a political party that is silent about them. The same political party also defends their rights to carry weapons in the streets and terrorize other American citizens. These same political leaders send in secret law enforcement officers to attack peaceful protestors who are trying to change problems with police brutality against minorities but do nothing when the protestors are supporting the current administration, violence and hate. Watch Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) question Attorney General Bill Barr about federal officers who descended on protesters near the White House ahead of a photo-op for President Donald Trump yet ignored protestors who threatened to kill the Michigan governor. 



In a Washington Post op-ed published on his retirement, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was a key witness in President Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry, wrote, “Our national government during the past few years has been more reminiscent of the authoritarian regime my family fled more than 40 years ago than the country I have devoted my life to serving.” So, is Trump just an authoritarian wannabe or is he in fact a fascist? We like to use the word fascist for all kinds of authoritarian regimes, but what does it really mean to be a fascist? Scholars generally agree that there are 14 characteristics of fascism:

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism 
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights 
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause 
  4. Supremacy of the Military 
  5. Rampant Sexism 
  6.  Controlled Mass Media 
  7. Obsession with National Security 
  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined 
  9. Corporate Power is Protected 
  10. Labor Power is Suppressed 
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts 
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment 
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption 
  14. Fraudulent Elections 

Does Trump fit the characterizations of a fascist? Some but technically not all. He is not a mass murderer like Hitler, but he is a bully like the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and shares some similarities to the fascist corporatism of Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar. (1) Trump claims a powerful and continuing nationalism but his seeming loyalty to Vladimir Putin says otherwise. (2) He definitely has a disdain for the recognition of human rights: immigrant children in cages, transphobic and racist rhetoric, etc. (3) Without a doubt, Trump identifies his enemies and those he uses as scapegoats as a way to unify his base. Trump ALWAYS has someone else to blame for everything. (4) Trump claims to fully support the military but his actions when dealing with soldiers such a Vindman who have showed criticism of his policies or Capt. Brett Crozier, who was relieved of his command because he sounded the alarm about an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard his ship, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, while the government denied the pandemic was a problem. The military knows that it cannot trust Trump, a man who knew that Putin had paid bounties for the death of American soldiers yet did nothing and says he did not know about the bounties, contrary to what those closest to him have reported. (6) The next characteristic is rampant sexism. Do I even need to elaborate on that one? 


(7) While Trump does not control the mass media, except he has the support of most of Fox News and the One America News Network, he really wishes he could control the media, but that pesky First Amendment stands in his way. (8) Only when he wants to deflect from another disaster he has caused, does Trump seem to become obsessed with National Security. He seemingly worries about China but not the more dangerous Russia or North Korea. (9) Trump has pandered to and protected corporate power, especially when it pertains to his own business interests. The Republican Party elite is made up of an industrial and business aristocracy, who put Trump into power and created a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and an even more powerful elite. (10) Trump has been no friend to organized labor or the average American worker, especially evident during the pandemic when the country has reached record highs in unemployment and his administration is trying to cut needed relief packages for unemployed workers. 


(11) Trump has always shown his disdain for intellectuals, while claiming to be a genius and the smartest person in the room, yet he had to cheat to even get into college. He has consistently dismissed scientist over climate issues and dismisses legitimate scientific and medical experts when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, he did support Dr. Stella Immanuel, a doctor and pastor who claims include blaming medical conditions on witches and demons who have “astral” sex with humans, alleging that alien DNA was being used in medical treatments, and that scientists were cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. The preeminent infectious disease expert in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, stated that most European countries shut down their economy by 95%, while functionally the U.S. only shut its economy down by 50% and that this is part of the reason the U.S. has continued to see a surge in cases while European countries have seen a sharp decrease. Trump responded in a tweet, “Wrong! We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases.” Last week, Trump retweeted a message that said Fauci had “misled” Americans on a number of issues. Fauci disputed that claim: “I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances.” Earlier, Trump had characterized Fauci as “a little bit of an alarmist.” Fauci also pushed back on that assertion, saying he considered himself “more a realist than an alarmist.”


(12) With Trump’s current campaign message as being the ‘law and order” candidate and his violent suppression of protesters, he is certainly showing an obsession with crime and punishment, except when it comes to his friends. He cares nothing about following the rule of law himself, yet he had crowds chanting “lock her up” referring to Hillary Clinton during his 2016 campaign and even continued encouraging the chant during his time in office. (13) The Trump administration has been one of the worst administrations in American history for rampant cronyism and corruption. Usually the top of the list of corrupt administrations are those of Grant, Harding, and Nixon (though Reagan’s administration should also rank near the top), but Trump seems bound and determined to outdo them all. A staggering number of people in the Trump administration and his associates have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to jail. A few of these criminals, Trump has distanced himself from but others such as Roger Stone, he pardoned or continues to support. (14) We also know that Trump encouraged the Russians and even the Chinese to interfere with the 2016 election and then did everything he could do to block the investigation into how much election tampering Russia accomplished. Now he is claiming that the coming 2020 election will be fraudulent so he can question the legitimacy of the election, even going to so far as to call for moving the date of the election. All of his election tactics in 2016 and 2020 has been meant to call into suspicion any election that he might not win.


In 1933, Salazar stated: "Our Dictatorship clearly resembles a fascist dictatorship in the reinforcement of authority, in the war declared against certain principles of democracy, in its accentuated nationalist character, in its preoccupation of social order. However, it differs from it in its process of renovation. The fascist dictatorship tends towards a pagan Caesarism, towards a state that knows no limits of a legal or moral order, which marches towards its goal without meeting complications or obstacles. The Portuguese New State, on the contrary, cannot avoid, not think of avoiding, certain limits of a moral order which it may consider indispensable to maintain in its favor of its reforming action." Trump will never be as blatant as Salazar had been about his authoritarian regime because at the end of the day, he does have to answer to the US Constitution and the American people. He may not like it, and he may threaten to circumvent the Constitution and the will of the majority of Americans. He doesn’t understand the rule of law or care anything about knowing the rule of law, but at the end of the day, we have a Supreme Court that has stood up to him (though not always), and we have a House of Representatives that will hold him in check as much as they can. We also have an election coming up that he cannot stop or postpone. We have some governors and mayors who are fighting tooth and nail against his oppression in their states and cities and his ineptitude in dealing with the current pandemic. 


So, while like Salazar, he is not a fully-fledged fascist because American laws prevent him from going too far, Trump is without a doubt a wannabe authoritarian. He may have the religious right backing him simply because he’s a Republican and against abortion (he cannot claim to be pro-life due to his lack of sympathy for the death of over 150,000 Americans due to his own ineptitude). He may even have fringe militia groups and hate groups ready to fight for his political survival. What he does not have is the heart and minds of American troops or a positive approval from the majority of Americans. He will never be able to force the United States to reject the election results if he loses. When November 3, 2020 comes and the American people vote him out of office, his term will end at noon on January 20, 2021. For all the Americans who read this blog, it is imperative, it is your duty, and it is your ability to vote Trump out of office that will save the United States. Because if we do not defeat him in November, I fear there will not be a United States to see him reach the limit to his terms of office in 2025. If we want our republic to survive, we must vote for Joe Biden as president on November 3. We need stability and progress in the United States, and we need someone who will respect the laws of this country. So, while you’re at it, vote against every Republican on the ballot and let’s make this a Blue Wave in November.



Sunday, August 2, 2020

Pic of the Day


Hypocrisy



Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows' houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.

Luke 20:45-47

 

On Friday, I wrote about my mother’s Southern Baptist pastor passing away from COVID-19, and I admitted that I have two prejudices: Republicans and Southern Baptists. Besides the unwelcoming nature of Southern Baptists, I thought I would explain why I think they are the modern-day equivalents of the scribes and the Pharisees that Jesus laments about several times in the Gospels. The Pharisees and scribes were upset because they believed the people were abandoning the purity of the covenant that Jews had made with God. They believed that Jews in the Roman Empire were being lax in their morality and in their obedience to the commandments of God. So, they sought to draw together and draw apart from the masses and to set a moral example. These were the conservatives of the day. They had a high system of honor and virtue, and they committed themselves to obeying God. Yet, they outwardly professed their faith the loudest, but they secretly did not follow their own beliefs and morals. They were hypocrtites.

 

Growing up in the South, the religious right was often centered around the Southern Baptists. They are the largest Protestant denomination, and they tend to be the loudest. Of course, there are other denominations that follow suit, but it is often the Southern Baptists that try to speak for all Protestants and condemn those who do not believe like they do. One reason for this is their seminaries and universities, and another reason is because of the press the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) receives, especially when it comes to their views on the LGBTQ+ community.

 

In its history, the SBC has issued several resolutions in which it rejects homosexuality as a lifestyle and refers to it as a "manifestation of a depraved nature", "a perversion of divine standards and as a violation of nature and natural affections" and "an abomination in the eyes of God." It opposes same-sex marriages and equivalent unions. The SBC has urged churches not to show any approval of homosexuality; however, it also holds that "while the Bible condemns such practice as sin, it also teaches forgiveness and transformation, upon repentance, through Jesus Christ our Lord." But that is only if a person turns away from the sexuality that they were born with. I personally think it is a gift from God. The SBC doesn’t even allow the term gay Christian because they say that even if you are celibate you cannot identify as both gay and Christian at the same time. The SBC only allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to worship with them if they denounce their sexuality.

 

My sister and I were raised in the Church of Christ. My father was far angrier at my sister for converting to being Southern Baptist when she got married than he ever was for me being gay. Yet, to show you how filled with hate he has become, he and my mother now attend a Southern Baptist Church. When I was growing up, he hated to even step foot in one of their churches. My mother was raised a Southern Baptist but claimed years ago that she was truly a member of the Church of Christ where we attended. I just don’t understand the sudden change in them. The only excuse I can find is because the church is convenient to where they are now living, and all my parents’ friends and neighbors attend that church. I find it disgusting that they would attend a church that is part of such a hate filled denomination. They think I will attend with them the next time I am home. I will not be. It will probably cause some strife, but I will not budge on this. I have been to a Baptist Church a few times in my life, and I always felt an evil surrounding me.

 

I am probably being a hypocrite on this because the Church of Christ is no better when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues. However, there are fundamental differences between the Church of Christ and the Southern Baptist Church. Most importantly, every congregation of the Church of Christ is independent. Southern Baptists claim the same thing, but they have the Southern Baptist Convention that governs all their churches and the denomination’s doctrine. The Church of Christ has no equivalent. Each Church of Christ could decide on their own to affirm the LGBTQ+ community because the elders of the church are in charge, but the Southern Baptist must abide by the doctrine of the SBC. Therefore, while I hold no hope for the SBC ever changing their stance, I do believe that the Church of Christ could and should. Will it ever happen? I can only hope and pray. One day, Christianity will accept the belief in a true universal love of God and will act accordingly.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Pic of the Day


Moment of Zen: Cats



I can't have a Moment of Zen about cats without my own girls. Here is Isabella. If you don't know, she's the cat I adopted in Vermont and currently lives with me.


I'm not sure I have ever posted pics of my other girls on this blog before, but here is Lucy (L-gray calico) and Edith (R-black calico). They are my girls who live in Alabama with my aunt. I adopted them after Victoria, my cat of 16 years, died. I wasn't originally allowed to bring them to Vermont because I couldn't find an apartment that would let me have cats. They had to stay with my aunt, who now won't let me have them back. She really would, but they are happy where they are. It's the only home they have ever known besides the animal shelter.


All my girls are very sweet. Isabella is my constant companion. Edith is always demure at first when she sees me, but she eventually warms up and is happy to see me. She just doesn't always show it right away. Lucy is the shy one and a real scaredy cat. No one but my aunt ever sees her, except when I come home and she hears my voice, then she will come out, but only when she is certain no one else is around. 


Friday, July 31, 2020

Pic of the Day


Temptations



In 1976, Jimmy Carter famously said in a Playboy Magazine interview, "I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times." Carter was referring to a particular Christian theological idea about sin. I was taught two things about sin growing up: 1) all sins are equal in the eyes of God and 2) if you contemplate a sin, it is no different from committing it. I have always had a fundamental problem with both. Carter did not. I think the supposed sin of a “lie of omission,” which is leaving out part of the truth on purpose and is still considered a lie, is not nearly as bad as murder. How can the two sins be equal? Furthermore, we all contemplate sins at various times. Many of us lust after people we shouldn’t but that is not the same as acting on lust nor is it adultery even if the person is married. If contemplating a sin was really a sin, then I am going straight to hell, “do not pass go, do not collect $200.”

 

I had the opportunity to be very cruel yesterday, but I held my tongue. My mother called upset that her preacher had died of COVID-19. I said I was sorry to hear it, but what I did not remind her of was that he had refused to wear a mask even though he was in a high risk category, and he had continued to hold church services even when he was told he shouldn’t. The man was elderly and had Parkinson’s but did not try to protect himself, his family, or his congregation. Did he get what he deserved? No, no one deserves to die like that. However, I am not going to feel a great deal of sadness over it either. Will those around him that still refuse to wear a mask learn from this? Again, no, they won’t because they would rather listen to the lies of a president who denounces science only because he is against abortion. I will not feel great sorrow for them if they get sick either. I will admit that I have a few prejudices; Republicans and Southern Baptists are at the top of the list. Both groups have done so much harm to the LGBTQ+ community and to me personally, not to mention minorities and whoever else they deem to hold in contempt. 

 

As I mentioned in my post about depression, when I needed my mother the most, when I was at the two lowest point in my life, she was not there for me. She never knew that I attempted suicide when I was a teenager, nor did she really care. She never understood the bullying I faced at school or my struggle with my sexuality and when I have tried to point out the bullying to her, she refuses to listen. She also constantly reminds me how wrong it is to be gay. When my friend died five years ago, and I called her because I wanted to hear her voice and wanted her to comfort me, she dismissed my sadness because my friend was gay. Some of you may be asking why I would have even sought comfort from her, but I used to be very close to my mother, and I so desperately wanted her to try and make it better. She has failed me many times, and yet, I still keep her in my life. I still love her. I know my relationship with my family is far from healthy.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Pic of the Day


Happy International Day of Friendship!



According to a resolution by the United Nations, today, July 30, 2020 is International Day of Friendship. Since my Thank You post early today surprisingly coincides with this day and this blog is read internationally (see below), I want to again say thank you for being my friends.


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From the United Nations:

 

Our world faces many challenges, crises and forces of division — such as poverty, violence, and human rights abuses — among many others — that undermine peace, security, development and social harmony among the world's peoples.

 

To confront those crises and challenges, their root causes must be addressed by promoting and defending a shared spirit of human solidarity that takes many forms — the simplest of which is friendship.

 

Through friendship — by accumulating bonds of camaraderie and developing strong ties of trust — we can contribute to the fundamental shifts that are urgently needed to achieve lasting stability, weave a safety net that will protect us all, and generate passion for a better world where all are united for the greater good.



The International Day of Friendship was proclaimed in 2011 by the UN General Assembly with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.

 

The resolution places emphasis on involving young people, as future leaders, in community activities that include different cultures and promote international understanding and respect for diversity.

 

To mark the International Day of Friendship the UN encourages governments, international organizations and civil society groups to hold events, activities and initiatives that contribute to the efforts of the international community towards promoting a dialogue among civilizations, solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation.

 

The International Day of Friendship is an initiative that follows on the proposal made by UNESCO defining the Culture of Peace as a set of values, attitudes and behaviors that reject violence and endeavor to prevent conflicts by addressing their root causes with a view to solving problems. It was then adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1997.



Why does the UN mark International Days?

 

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.

A Big Thank You



I just wanted to start by saying how much I appreciate your kind comments yesterday. For those of you who don’t comment often or have never commented before, I want to let you know how much it means to me when you do comment. And for those who read, but don’t comment, I appreciate you taking time out of your day to read what I have to say. For those who comment on a regular basis, I always love hearing from you. I appreciate all of you from the bottom of my heart.

 

I have not always had the easiest life. It has been quite a struggle at times. I always wished that I was more outgoing, but it’s just not in my nature. However, this blog allows me to express myself when I am rarely able to do so in person. I can write about my past and my feelings, but it is harder for me to verbalize them. So, writing my blog is therapeutic for me. I occasionally have people who comment on my blog that I complain too much or that I am just a sad and pathetic human being. It always hurts to read that, but truthfully and deep down, I don’t care what they think of me. If they don’t like what they read, there is a simple solution: don’t read my blog. But knowing there are readers out there who generally care about me and read my blog because they care and hopefully find entertainment occasionally means the world to me.

 

When I started this blog ten years ago, it was originally a way for me to spread knowledge about gay people in history. Since then it has evolved into much more than that. It has become a way for me to write about what I am thinking and feeling, whether the topic is politics, health, relationships, religion, etc. I talk about my health issues, which I know could be worse, and while I write to work through my own issues, I also write so that if there are people going through the same issues, they have a place where they know they are not alone. Maybe reading what I go through can help someone else go through the same thing. Furthermore, I am always here for anyone who wants to reach out to me and needs an understanding ear. I haven’t always had the luxury of an understanding ear, and I used to go through the difficulties of life alone. Now, I have my blog and my readers who help me through difficult situations.

 

I guess even in the beginning when I was writing historical posts, I was writing to show other gay people that we have always existed in history and some of those people did truly great things. In fact, some of the greatest geniuses in history were gay. Many historians believe that Alexander the Great was one of history’s greatest military tacticians, and he was gay or, at the very least, bisexual. Leonardo da Vinci was a polymath with such a great breadth of knowledge, and he too was gay as were many of the great artists of the Renaissance. I could talk about great men and women who were gay at great length, but my point is that we are all truly exceptional human beings.

 

So, thank you for continuing to read this blog and for offering comfort and encouragement. Life is not always easy. Sometimes, it’s really fucking difficult, but together we can get through it. Thank you, my friends and virtual hugs to all of you.