Friday, June 01, 2007

I love my Amazon

...but do not cross the Amazon - especially when you hit a hot button issue with her (well, and me as well.) Since LJ was not posting last night for reasons completely unexplained, she ended up posting to her Mac page (or whatever it is) the result of opening up the paper, hoping to see the letter to the editor that we had written praising Anna's preschool. Instead, we opened up and saw not one but two letters full of homophobic vitriol and bigotry - brought on by the recent presence of Faith in America in Ames. As you might imagine this did not sit well with the missus.

You can read the post that LJ would not let her post here.

Heidi will always be the trailblazer among the two of us - but I am always more than happy to follow.

Perhaps the Faith In America ad that got me the most was the one on the back page of the Sunday paper a couple weeks ago (you can see it here) - it featured a cross full of smiling people and at the top, it asked "Do you know someone who is homosexual? - Would you give your life for them?" And at the bottom is says "Christ did." Now, I don't even categorize myself as a Christian these days - thanks mostly to the hateful zealotry and unquestionable bigotry of the religious right - but that got even to me.

As I have detailed in many posts here, I find myself in a strange position - a straight man whose tribe really is amongst gay men. And those hateful words are directed at every single one of those friends who are so dear to me - even the ones I do not know as well. Comments like "That's so gay!" - especially when uttered by straight people - even bother me - one would never find it appropriate to say "That's so black!" or "That's so Jewish!" which IS THE SAME DAMN THING. My natural tendency toward no-conflict-thankyouverymuch a lot of times keeps me from saying something of which I am particularly ashamed this morning.

For those who don't like my diatribe, too fucking bad. It's something I feel strongly about and as I've been up this morning, thinking about how Heidi came to bed at 3AM last night because she couldn't sleep and how this kind of crap is still ok to say in our society, I've just gotten more riled up.

This is why I feel passionate about working with the gay community - especially if it can involve work with HIV/AIDS. The gay community deserves our compassion and certainly doesn't deserve what I'm sure they are used to getting from a good chunk of the straight community.


Heidi Cullinan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heidi Cullinan said...

Apparently not everybody can link to the .mac page, which is almost as aggravating as LJ. For context, here's the stupid post that refuses to be posted. Stupid internet series of tubes.

Maybe it will post HERE.


Tonight I opened the paper to see if they'd printed the letter to the editor which I'd written about my daughter's preschool. It was meant as a thank you for two wonderful, positive years of learning and as some free advertising and a recommendation for parents seeking a preschool for their child.

What I found instead was this

and this.

Dan saw my face and said, "Honey, don't let them get to you." But you know, this is my cross. That stuff always gets to me. And the "cesspool" authors are regular offenders, and all I could think of was that these were the only two letters in the paper today, and I thought of how it made my stomach hurt, of how I cried, of how I crumpled the edges of the paper in a white rage, and I thought of my letter in the recycle bin from my Congressional representative, Tom Latham, who told me--in two separate letters--we didn't need the Matthew Shephard Act because we didn't have a need for it, because our local laws would ensure that if somebody beat up a gay man just because he was gay and they were bored, they'd get penalized just the same as somebody in a bar fight. Of course, he didn't say THAT. But he did tell me we didn't need the act, even though, I assume, someone on his staff reads the letters to the editor of his local papers.

So I pushed the rage aside, reminded myself I was a writer, and then I wrote another letter to the editor.


Recently I have contacted my Congressional legislators to say that, as their constituent, I want them to vote for the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shephard Act; twice now I have been told by my Congressman, Tom Latham, that we already have laws which cover this, and we do not need more. He seems to believe that our local communities are without bias on this issue, or that if there is bias, it isn't anything to worry about.

I must assume, then, that he doesn't read the letters to the editor in his district, or that if he does, he agrees with the bigoted, hate-filled messages that our local community can provide. If he reads the letters to the editor of the Ames Tribune from Sam and Darlene Erickson, specifically "A Cesspool of Sexual Immorality" printed on Thursday May 31, 2007, where the couple lambast a Christian for daring to say "people are homosexuals because God created them that way" before randomly quoting out-of-context and poorly studied Biblical verses and end with a snide "Nowhere in these ads did I see one verse of scripture" and add near the end, "May God have mercy on [Faith In America] and all homosexuals who choose to repent."

Neither, then, would Latham be much moved by Roy DeMoss's letter in the same edition ("Wrapped Up In Satan's Trickery and Deceit"), where DeMoss, also picking and choosing his scripture, cites the Sodom and Gomorrah story, equates homosexual orientation to Satanic trickery, and promises God will pour out holy wrath on those who "defile his ordinances." He spends several columns explaining that this ordinance—do not have homosexual sex, especially sodomy—is one of the worst offenses. And if you aren't clear what holy wrath is, he points you to the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah: "suffering the punishment of eternal fire."

These two letters serve as precisely the reason we need the Matthew Shephard Act, especially in our local community. For these letters represent the sort of bias which begets acts of hate against homosexual, transsexual, and bisexual persons. It is this sort of local bigotry and religious zealotry which plant the seeds, which make it permissible to see a man in a dress and beat him, to see two men holding hands and spit on them, throw broken beer bottles at them, and in general, act in hate. Clearly significant—and as our papers demonstrate, vocal—portions of our population feel these people are flagships of sin, depravity, and debasement that while of course these good Christians would never actively advocate violent acts against the LGBT community, neither do they seem concerned that their vitriol could possibly feed hate in others for these same people. To them, clearly the greater evil is mere acknowledgment of the LGBT community, not their protection as citizens with rights to expect the same physical safety as heterosexual citizens.

Tom Latham, my Congressional representative, does not seem concerned about this, but I am, and since he will not speak for me, I will. Mr. and Mrs. Erickson, I have already given you scripture in a letter to the editor I wrote shortly upon moving to Ames, but I don't mind repeating it for you. Please make sure your Bible contains this verse, in Leviticus, actually. Leviticus 19:18: "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD." Also, please make sure that same verse is repeated in the Gospel of Matthew, spoken by Jesus. (Matthew 22:39): "And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

To Mr. DeMoss, I would direct you to the same verses if you wish to cite scripture, but as for your Sodom and Gomorrah story, please not that while Lot was appalled at the idea of sending out his guests to "have relations"—a vague enough term in its own right—he had no qualms about sending out his daughters to meet that same fate. If you are honestly promoting this as behavior worth modeling, I'm afraid there is not much we can say to one another. However, to the authors of both letters, I offer you one more verse. Matthew 5:44: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

If your letters are based in love, I have great empathy and pity for you, because I am convinced, then, that you have no notion of what love truly is. If your hate and anger and insensitivity, your words which make my stomach hurt, which make me fear for the lives of my friends, which make me embarrassed to be a resident of this community because your hateful, unfeeling words appeared in my newspaper—if this is your idea of love, I encourage you to abandon your angry pursuit of homosexuals and try instead to learn to love yourself and believe in a God who might love you and all his creatures back, who would give you a world of hope and light instead of one of darkness and bitterness and hate.

We need the Matthew Shephard Act because if these authors are good Christians who might not act in violence but can certainly write in hate—just think of the residents of our community who would indeed act in violence. Think of where they are, where they might be, what influence they might have. Think of what jury they may sit on. Think of what their bias and hate could do.

Several of my dearest friends are homosexual men. Their presence in my life is a blessing and a gift, and I have deep and bountiful love for each one of them. These letters of hate are not just slander to them; they are wounds to me, and to us all. The failure to have a federal hates crimes law is an injustice. Please write your Senator today and tell them so.


And now, maybe, I can sleep.

inkgrrl said...

Beautifully said, beautifully done. Kudos.

Yuяi said...

Do they consider Ames to be in the "bible belt"? It's a bit high geographically, and I can't remember if it's one of those RED republican states or not. But blatant homophobia and hatred is not cool--anywhere or ever.

And I can't believe LJ thinks the existing laws are fine "as-is"! WTF?

Heidi, your comments to LJ were spot-on and beautifully written. It's a shame that your community won't see it or any editorial rebuttal to it. But then again, the editor sounds like a coward anyway.

Heidi Cullinan said...

Sorry, Yuri--LJ's not "letting" me is purely in that it won't post anything right now more than two paragraphs long. It's purely technical. It's gone on for over a day now, though, so I've lost my humor for the situation.

Unknown said...

Heidi and Dan,

All I can say is THANK YOU. Reading all of this made me cry--a good cry. Please don't underestimate how much you are respected and appreciated. As a gay man, it means so much that straight people care as you do.



Anonymous said...

Brain C. here...this issue is seemingly as simple as it is complex if you can wrap your brain around it..Religous leaders of today have no interest in the word of God or the lessons of Christ..they blame, gays,blacks,mexicans,metrosexuals, lumberjacks, dwarfs...fucking anyone that will fill that void of scapegoating why people have an unfulfilled life. This is done for one reason. POWER POWER and more POWER....I fucking hate even talking to these people who seem to think that the reason their good job was sent to India was not the work of a multination corporation but because gays in new england can say they are "married"..Get the shit you of your head!!!!Furthermore..let me leave a lesson in history reguarding power and religion.. Thomas Jefferson was fearful of a State run church becase he thought a religous theocracy would destroy democracy...John Adams was fearful of the State giving money to the churches because it would corupt religion...Both thought the other was paranoid for there respective viewpoints...and as we can all see today...they were both right!!!

Anonymous said...

Brian C here again...Don't mean to play devils advocate but one of my good friends is a lawyer and some time ago we got talking about hate crimes..This guy is a liberal and is highly sympathetic to the causes but explained to me that your asking to law to bend and do something that would attenuate it..I was quite interested and inquired more..he told me " you know what the is difference between a guy who robs a bank to get rich and the guy who robs a bank to pay for his childrens medical bills..answer--the first guy gets 20 years in prison and the second guy gets 20 years in prison.." The law cares little what the reasoning behind it is, it only cares if something happened or didn't...if it didnt, then the law does not see it. And how do you prove this beyond resonable doubt?? If a hate crime took place and would double the penalty..Waht would the defendant say? I was robbing him and its not because he was a mormon or to tall or whatever. The law does a lot of thing that do not seem fair or right..most often to avoid the slippery slope we speak of getting into a huge bullshit "they said this,and she said that"..My friend told me "Sometime assult charges are hard enough to a good solid conviction and good sentence without the "Why" added in with the "What Happened". I can totally see he imperfect point in this imperfect world...just wanted to know what you guys all thought???