Fine! Now I Have to Shop at Target!

I tell you, voting with my wallet gets tiring. And expensive. That said, however, I’m damned if I’ll stop until they do.

What am I talking about, you ask? Why Target, and who are “they” anyway?

Well, according to USA Today, Target announced a sensible bathroom policy. Evidently, if you need to pee–or give in to other bodily urges that require the facility popularly known as the bathroom (or, if you’re in Merrie Old England, the “Loo”)–Target suggests you choose the one that seems correct to you, use it, and (implicitly) flush before leaving.

While this announcement seems perfectly appropriate (albeit unnecessary) to sane human beings, there are–as I know my readers have noticed–a lot of not-so-sane people who, for reasons I will never, ever understand, fixate on the identity of the other people who may be relieving themselves in the same restroom.

It’s not like there have been incidents involving trans folks in bathrooms. (Republican officeholders, yes, but no trans persons.) It’s not like most of us haven’t shared public toilets with everyone from screaming infants (of both presumed genders) to potheads and drunks to perfectly nice people who nevertheless really made the place smell bad.

Comes with the damn territory.

But not according to the crazies at the American Family Association.

The petition started by the American Family Association on Wednesday raises concerns that Target’s inclusive stance on transgender rights encourages sexual predators and puts women and young girls in danger, because “a man can simply say he ‘feels like a woman today’ and enter the women’s restroom.”

The boycott has more than 517,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon, marking it as one of AFA’s most popular campaigns.

Now, the rest of America has a choice. We can yield the field–leave the loo to the bigots mischaracterizing the policy and trying to intimidate Target (although it doesn’t sound like the company will back down), or we can show merchants who do the right thing that we have their back.

I’d tell these fearful fannies to go to their churches to pray for humility and understanding, but they’re statistically more likely to run into a child molester there than at Target, and then it would be my fault.

So despite the fact that the nearest Target is 8 miles away, I’m going shopping.


Wow..Talk About Your Double Standards!

The Supreme Court recently announced it will hear pending same-sex marriage cases, prompting the increasingly unhinged American Family Association to issue a press release titled “Kagan and Ginsburg: Recuse Yourselves!”

Both of these justices’ personal and private actions that actively endorse gay marriage clearly indicate how they would vote on same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “Congress has directed that federal judicial officers must disqualify themselves from hearing cases in specified circumstances. Both Kagan and Ginsburg have not only been partial to same-sex marriage but they have also proven themselves to be activists in favor of it. In order to ensure the Court’s integrity and impartiality, both should recuse themselves from same-sex marriage cases. Congress has an obligation to Americans to see that members of the Supreme Court are held to the highest standards of integrity. The law demands it, and the people deserve it.

Because Scalia and Thomas haven’t given us any hints about their approach to the subject..cough, cough. (One of Scalia’s sons directs an Ex-gay “reparative therapy” group, and has declared that homosexuality doesn’t really exist.)

A few observations: first, judges (including Scalia) are entitled to have personal opinions. What we have a right to expect is that they will render decisions based upon precedent and sound constitutional analysis, rather than twisting their legal analyses to fit their policy preferences. (Hint: Ginsburg and Kagan are not the Justices most often accused of that behavior.)

Second–where were these defenders of “high standards of integrity” when their fellow-travelers Scalia and Thomas had frequent, obvious and quite real conflicts of interest?

Both Scalia and Thomas accepted speaking engagements (including cushy travel and accommodations) before ideological groups funded by the Koch brothers, although there were cases pending before the Court in which the Kochs were deeply interested.

Scalia went hunting with then Vice-President Cheney at the same time that Cheney was party to a case before the Court (another one of his sons technically worked for Cheney at the same time, as top lawyer in the Bush Administration’s Labor Department); Thomas has refused to recuse himself in cases where the outcome was very important to the (ideological) organization employing his wife. If a lower court judge refused to recuse under such circumstances, that judge would be sanctioned under the rules cited by the AFA.

I have news for the AFA: being a nice human being while serving on the Supreme Court (the conduct of which Kagan and Ginsberg are guilty) is not how we define a conflict of interest. Even being an narcissistic asshole (Scalia) or a petulant advocate of long-discarded constitutional theories  (Thomas) while serving on the Court is not a conflict.

Refusing to recuse yourself from cases in which you or your spouse have a direct financial interest, or from cases to which your hunting buddy is a party, is.


A Planet of Their Own Devising

I have a friend who takes perverse delight in “sharing” the American Family Association’s newsletter with me. (He’s one of several people I know whose receipt of that “publication” is for monitoring purposes; sometimes, I wonder what percentage of the AFA audience actually agrees with them and what percentage is composed of gay liberals…but I digress.)

The first “article” was an incoherent rant about the IU Law School students who reviewed the Indiana Code and discovered 614 provisions that would be affected by the pending measure to place a ban on same-sex marriage in the Indiana Constitution. Evidently, the report–which included a list of the provisions–should be disregarded because it wasn’t “peer reviewed” (alert: even articles published in prestigious law reviews are not peer reviewed; such review is an attribute of science and social science journals), because the students are “activists,” and because it doesn’t matter anyway. Or something.

The next article presented what purported to be a quotation from Pravda (no kidding!), explaining that the reason American voters returned Obama to office is that we have become an irremediably immoral people. This rant is replete with “quotations” from America’s founders about the importance of religion–not just any religion, of course, just Christianity–and explaining how far the country has fallen from those glorious days of religious purity. The writer bemoaned the fact that the quotations go largely unreported by America’s corrupted media. Hint: this may be because they are bogus. These are David Barton-generated, wholly manufactured sentiments the authenticity of which has long been discredited. (Civic literacy sermon alert! Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the founders to whom these quotes are attributed would recognize how inconsistent the statements are with the philosophy of those to whom they are attributed.)

I could go on, but you get the picture.

The people who generate these sad diatribes are obviously feeling beleaguered. It’s hard not to sympathize; like Rip Van Winkle, they awoke one day to a world they don’t recognize or understand, and these frantic jeremiads are a response–a way of keeping threatening and unfamiliar realities at bay. Take this example:

Such people are the product of America’s decaying society whose reality has been warped by drugs and other selfish pleasures. America has gradually become worse from the drugs, rock and roll of the 60′s and 70′s to the drugs and rap music of today. The communists won while Americans smoked pot.

The alienation of God in society began in the classroom. Today, blasphemies can easily be seen on TV and the cinema. Hollywood portrays the sane as the insane. The abnormal and perverted as normal. The unborn babies are seen as nothing. The silent holocaust continues. Is it any wonder America is in trouble?

The economy destroyed by white-collar crimes were done by men of immoral character. They are not personally responsible for all of America’s failings but are a symptom of America’s spiritual illness most commonly referred to in previous centuries as “sin”. This is the connection that most fail to see. Where there is no God there is chaos.”

Sex, drugs and rock and roll….

What amazes me is a definition of morality that centers on personal behaviors. It never seems to occur to the denizens of Planet AFA that morality might better be measured by how we treat our fellow human beings.  Of course, if righteousness consists in human kindness, in recognition that all creatures created by the God they purport to worship are entitled to human dignity–the inevitable conclusion is that the true immorality is theirs.


Do You See What I See?

Apparently not.

Our local Pride Festival has come and gone, but the annual culture war over it goes on. And on.

I never cease to be amazed at the descriptions of our Pride Parade emanating from the “family values” folks. Our local American Family organization sent out an email alert a couple of days before the parade, asking recipients to pray for the grievously damaged souls who participate in the debauched and immoral displays involved, and attaching photos from prior ‘exhibitions.”

I’m not a “family values” person—at least, not in the sense that phrase is typically meant—and I guess I proved it at Pride, because my husband and I took our youngest two grandchildren to the Parade. They had a great time.

The Indianapolis parade began seven years ago, with—to the best of my recollection—the same number of floats: seven. This year, there were 125. For the first year, and several years thereafter, there were small groups of protestors with signs urging participants to “Repent” and “Choose Jesus” (and the ubiquitous “Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve.”), but this year, if they were there, I didn’t see them, although it is possible that they were obscured by the crowd, which gets bigger every year.

So what sorts of inappropriate and sordid behavior did my grandchildren—ages 7 and 9—see?

Several political candidates and officeholders participated, as did local firefighters and police officers. (The police had announced their official participation, only to have authorization to do so yanked by the Mayor in the wake of the AFA email blast, but several participated anyway, on their own time.)

I counted at least four churches. There were dykes on bikes, our local PFlag Chapter and another one that had come all the way from Dayton, Ohio. There were radio stations, hairstyling studios and automobile agencies–plus gay marching bands, a couple of floats featuring local drag artists, and floats entered by a number of GLBT organizations—ranging from the Indiana Youth Group to the GLBT staff and faculty members from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, where I teach.

The raciest float I saw was one featuring a bunch of well-muscled men in fairly skimpy bathing suits, dancing. The suits were pretty tight, but I’ve seen tighter at the local swimming pool.

Most of the people who participated in the parade threw candy, rainbow leis or multicolored strings of beads as they passed. (The candy was the least healthy part of the celebration—I finally had to call a halt before sugar comas set in.)

It is interesting to consider why the parade I saw—and felt perfectly comfortable sharing with my grandchildren—is so different from the parade viewed by our local “God Squad.” I guess it’s true that most of us see what we expect to see—that we view reality through our individual worldviews and social attitudes.

I feel sorry for those who insist on looking for the underside of everything—those who are intent upon seeing smut where there is none.

They miss all the fun.


Going Down Ugly

According to a March, 2011 survey from Pew, 58% of Americans believe that homosexuality should be accepted, while 33% believe it should not be. Leaving aside what the individuals surveyed thought constituted “acceptance,” this is yet another indicator that the cultural tide is flowing in the right direction; indeed, when the survey responses were broken down by age, gender and such, the results confirmed numerous prior studies showing that younger cohorts are massively more supportive of equality—including same-sex marriage—than are their elders.

In the face of this rapid and positive social change, the Right is becoming increasingly hysterical.

A couple of days before this year’s Pride celebration, a friend forwarded a “Special Prayer Request” from the AFA of Indiana that illustrates how ugly that hysteria gets, and how intellectually dishonest these radical right organizations really are. It began with an admonition that the photos appended to the email were not intended to “offend” anyone. (Those photos were the usual, carefully selected “shockers” from previous Pride parades. I’ve gone to Pride events for the past twenty years, and these days, they generally include large numbers of parents with strollers, real estate and other sales booths, and a whole host of elected officials. Strangely enough, those elements of the crowd weren’t pictured.)

The email then listed “some of the vendors registered with Indy Pride” for this year, leading off with the Great Lakes Leather Bondage and S&M Society” (a new one for me), and including the Indiana Socialist Party. (Indiana has a Socialist Party??), “various apostate churches and fringe religious entities” (by their definition, I assume Episcopalians and Presbyterians are part of that apostate fringe), and others with “gender identity disorders” or who are characterized as “left-wing” and “pro-abortion.”

Micah Clark, the author of the email, makes the assertion—which he underlines—that “homosexuals are less than 3% of the population,” and he accuses the Pride organization (and, presumably, the photographers and reporters who cover Pride events) of exaggerating attendance numbers. Although reputable scholars suggest that considerably more than 3% of the population is gay, let’s just accept that number—and recognize the real argument being made here: that we shouldn’t have to treat such a small number of people fairly. Presumably, minorities don’t deserve equal treatment under the law.  Aside from the Un-American nature of that assertion, I can only wonder what he thinks the cut-off percentage is? Since extremist rightwing Christians are also a minority, albeit a minority larger than 3%, does their percentage of the population cross the magic boundary that permits them to assert constitutional rights?)

What seems to really outrage Micah Clark is that this year, the Indianapolis Police Department officially participated for the first time.

After engaging in some two and a half pages of twisted, dishonest rhetoric (including an astonishing assertion that the nation’s founders were “deeply troubled” by “this kind of thing”), Clark ends with a request that recipients pray for “those trapped by sexual brokenness and even those who oppose us.”

How ironically gracious of him!

Painting minority groups as irretrievably “other” is a time-dishonored tactic of bigots. It is one of the many ways in which the gay community has been marginalized and discriminated against over the years. And it’s not working any more.

President Obama’s favorite Martin Luther King quote is that “the arc of history bends toward justice.” That arc is by no means smooth, but we’re getting there.