Saturday, August 28, 2010

San Francisco Girlfriends

I'm in San Francisco for my father's birthday and my sister shared with me the following story about my seven-year-old niece, Gracie.

Gracie and her good friend were enjoying a vigorous afternoon of make believe. The friend had a fairy princess doll while Gracie had a schoolgirl doll, and Gracie suggested, "Let's pretend we're walking down the street and we bump into each other. And then, let's pretend we fall in love and want to get married, but we can't because the government says it's against the law."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dr. Laura is Bustin' Out

Last week, Dr. Laura Schlessinger dropped the N-bomb on her radio show while giving advice to a female African American caller. Actually, dropped is the wrong word; strafed might be more apt, for to drive her self-proclaimed philosophical point home (although I could tell you neither what her point was nor to what philosophy she ascribes) she repeatedly blasted her black caller and radio listeners with N-bomb following N-bomb, making me think, perhaps incongruously, of the last image of Bonnie and Clyde.

Subsequently, Dr. Laura has announced on Larry King Live that she will quit radio. She explains, "I want to regain my First Amendment rights," whatever that's supposed to mean. According to Dr. Laura, her rights "have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don't want to debate, they want to eliminate." And so, before these treacherous groups get their diabolical way, she has decided to sign off when her contract ends at the end of the year.

I have a wee confession to make. I will miss my Dr. Laura time. I've not always agreed with her "get over yourself and get under your man" advice, but there's something about the way she bitch slaps ignorant America that I find highly entertaining.

Over the years, radio listeners have been attracted to Dr. Laura's strong moral compass, all the while unable to live up to her strict standards, especially on subjects of marriage, infidelity and child rearing. I'm unclear how these standards lapsed when she herself was a home wrecker, had an affair with a married man which led to his subsequent divorce, and ended up pregnant before their wedding day. But those are past discrepancies. Peccadilloes really. The Dr. Laura of today refuses to look backwards. Her tongue is as sharp as a block of cheddar, and even after the N-bomb brouhaha her rules remain uncompromising.

Every now and again, she may lend one of her callers a sympathetic ear, however more often she flexes her superior intellect (I only know it's superior because she reminds her listeners on a regular basis) by interrupting the caller before he or she has finished spelling out the problem at hand. Then Dr. Laura will offer a quick-fix solution, sometimes attached to a personal, funsy story, all within a two to three minute segment. You tell me: therapy or entertainment?

And quite aware of Dr. Laura's almost fascist morals, single parents and multi-divorcees brave her wrath and continue to call in. They butter her up by telling her how much they love her books and by repeating one of her personal catch phrases like "I am my child's mom" in the hopes that they won't be chewed up and spat aside like a wad of overcooked gristle. It's reality pablum at its best and I find it a hoot.

The African American woman who called in said she had an issue about the racist comments made by her white husband's family and friends. She said she was beginning to resent her husband because he wouldn't stand up for her. This peaked my interest. Living in a multiracial household, Michael and I have had quite a few conversations about perception and race, not always seeing eye to eye, I might add. However, we both respect that our different life experiences may lead us to different conclusions, both pertinent, both valid.

But never in our relationship has the N-word been hurled as the caller claimed happened to her. Dr. Laura bizarrely defended a white person's usage of that word by saying, "Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nig*ger, nig*er, nig*er."

And she was off. The caller's problem was small potatoes compared to the newer, more shiny problem Dr. Laura brought to the table. In one broad stroke she went from racism to racial sensitivity. Evidently, one of the good doctor's pet peeves had been poked and she made damn sure it was her voice that was heard...

DR. LAURA: I think you have too much sensitivity...

CALLER: So it's okay to say "nig*er"?

DR. LAURA: ...and not enough sense of humor.

CALLER: It's okay to say that word?

DR. LAURA: It depends on how it's said.

CALLER: Is it okay to say that word? Is it ever okay to say that word?

DR. LAURA: It's... It depends how it's said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it's okay.

CALLER: But you're not black. They're not black. My husband is white.

DR. LAURA: Oh, I see. So, a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can't do much about that.

CALLER: I can't believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the "nig*er" word, and I hope everybody heard it.

DR. LAURA: I didn't spew out the "nig*er" word.

CALLER: You said, "nig*er, nig*er, nig*er."

DR. LAURA: Right, I said that's what you hear.

CALLER: Everybody heard it.

DR. LAURA: Yes, they did.

CALLER: I hope everybody heard it.

DR. LAURA: They did, and I'll say it again...

CALLER: So, what makes it okay for you to say the word?

DR. LAURA: ...nig*er, nig*er, nig*er.

I found this transcript on line exactly as written and I have to ask, what's with the asterisks? We all know what the word is. We're all saying it in our heads as we read the transcript. It's that incredibly divisive double-G, unlike jiggle or nugget which are jaunty words that are delightful to say, this double-G eviscerates, forcing us to face the grottiest of our country's history, and dare I say it, of ourselves. But an asterisk doesn't really give the pretension of softening the blow, does it? "The N-word" or "the N-bomb" do not take away the sting. do they? As misguidedly delivered as it was, could that have been Dr. Laura's philosophical point? After all, she didn't call anyone a racial epithet, she used the word as an example. Might it be better to face it in it's basest form rather than pretend it doesn't exist or bury it in in effigy as did the NAACP?

From time to time, Michael lets the N-word slide from his lips, never in front of the children, and always in an inclusive "my people" way, as the ladies from The View have co-opted "bitch" as a form of female empowerment, as I have used another insidious double-G, "faggot" within this very blog to call attention to or poke fun at my tribe.

Par exemple...

Michael and I invited group of friends over for drinks. We were sitting around talking about the recent death of Lorene Yarnell, half of the the well known mime duo Shields and Yarnell, of a brain aneurysm. Trying to top the rest of us, one friend in a faggoty TV anchor voice announced, "Lorene Yarnell went quietly into the night." This was met with an uncomfortable silence, until another friend chastised with the equally faggy, "Too soon."

I don't feel the least bit uncomfortable using faggot, or any of its derivations. However, if someone calls me faggot, or cocksucker, or if I may steal from Dr. Laura, "biological error" you'd better believe it would hurt. Of course, I'd get over it, but in that initial moment before the armor went up there would be, dare I say, a disquieting prick. And I'm pretty sure if I bumped into Joy Behar coming out of Carnegie Deli and espoused, "Hey bitch" I'd end up with a stiletto in the eye socket.

But maybe we're all too hypersensitive. Is that what you were trying to say, Dr. Laura? Do we all need to lighten up? At eleven years old, when my dad taught me to make his scotch and soda, I remember feeling oddly uncomfortable when he told me to pour a jigger of scotch. In 1999, David Howard, a white aide to Anthony A. Williams, the black mayor of Washington, D.C., had to tender his resignation when in reference to the budget he used the word niggardly. But perhaps, Dr. Laura, you're saying that's part of our past, that slavery was centuries ago, that we have a black president now, that race relations are strong and all of us are ready for an open discourse. Perhaps you think the asterisks are silly, that calling it "the N-word" is provincial. And maybe, just maybe that's why you spoke the word, Dr. Laura, why you spoke it out loud eleven times, perhaps that's why you said...



If I could put in my two cents, Dr. Laura... Too soon.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Knee Jerk

"Roger, do you take Dave to be your lawfully wedded husband..."

It's hard to believe that those words could incite such fear and hatred. That there are those who see gay marriage as the onset of the Apocalypse. In my own little world, dissolving Prop 8 actually seems the natural course of things, however the same ruling has caused others to mutilate.

At the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, to which I have never been (something else to add to the bucket list) a sculpture of two grooms atop a wedding cake was vandalized. It was part of a group show called, "Some Assembly Required: Race, Gender and Globalization." The piece was created by artist Susan Tibbles, which is just a fun name to say, for a 2008 op-ed piece in the LA Times entitled Marriage Isn't the Half of It, by Nancy D. Polikoff. The museum's publicity coordinator recounted, "The two guys were unfortunately torn off and thrown about the gallery along with some other embellishments."

Embellishments aside, it must be difficult lashing out against the inevitable. Even our illustrious governor said yesterday, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Let the fags and dykes marry already." And this statement was a bit of a shocker since Schwarzenegger has previously vetoed two same-sex marriage bills, not to mention he was the named defendant in the Prop 8 law suit Judge Walker ruled on Wednesday. So, if Governor Terminator is readying marriage licences to read spouse and spouse, rather than husband and wife, well then, traditional marriage devotees might indeed feel like the quicksand is falling fast.

Ms. Tibbles, still fun, made an astute observation by posing the grooms on a cake of American dollars. Californians need to face a very strong reality. Our fair state is in the financial crapper. So, now that gays and lesbians can marry, think of the money that will fuel our economy. How much does even a modest wedding ceremony cost? Now, multiply that by fifty thousand. (I'm just pulling a number out of my ass here. But since there were eighteen thousand same-sex marriages in that four month window in 2008, I would imagine fifty thousand weddings would happen in the blink of a drag queen's false eyelash.) Think of how the service industry would boom. Think of the taxable income. Think of the teachers who could be rehired, the roads repaved. And then, the cherry of this matrimonial sundae, think of how forty-three percent of us will be throwing tons of money at getting the subsequent divorce.

So, let's stop destroying artwork (and no egging, TPing, tagging, keying or dewigging while you're at it) and if you must, direct your personal angst at a punching bag, a therapist's couch or Mel Gibson. Because destruction only leads to reparation. The art piece in question has been sent back to Ms. Tibbles, really a dilly of a name, for repairs, to be back on display before the show closes September 12th. And believe you me, homosexuals are as at least resilient as their plastic replicas.

Friday, August 6, 2010

An Improper Basis

Yesterday's front page of the Los Angeles Times blared, "Ban on gay marriage overturned." Now, don't get me wrong, I'm elated that Prop 8 was kicked in the nads. Well, maybe not elated, more like cautious. I couldn't quite revel like the thousands of other gays and lesbians who partied hard two night ago in West Hollywood, the Castro and the Little Caesar's in Pacoima. You see, I'm having a difficult time trusting Judge Walker's landmark ruling will hold, as I've had a difficult time trusting my legal marriage will remain, well, legal...I don't care what anyone says, it will always be a marriage.

All it takes these days is some Bible thumping organization, or Target trust fund baby, or a state like Utah to throw a gazillion dollars towards the appeal and we'll be right back at square one, or maybe, square negative seventy-eight, and my kids will be bastards once again.

I know, I know, it's an ugly word, bastards. But my children's fight has been my biggest fight all along. I demand we protect the security they've come to take for granted. Sebastian and Maxie were at our wedding. They were part of the ceremony. It's as much their marriage as it is Michael's and mine. How dare anyone spouting Christian beliefs or tea-bagging rhetoric try to remove that stability from their lives.

In an odd twist, yesterday's other top news story was that Bristol Palin once again called off her nuptials to her son's baby daddy, and sometimes Playgirl cheesecake, Levi Johnston. When the Wasilla teens made the surprising announcement that they were getting back together, most of use (let's be honest) did not think it would last. For me, the reasons for this breakup are inconsequential. What I find significant, is there is a high percentage of Americans who would have rather seen these adolescents give it the good ol' college try (did either of them even go to college?) even when threatening to besmirch the sacred institution of marriage, rather than allow filthy homosexuals the same opportunity.

A few jewels from the 136 page ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker....

"Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gays and lesbians."

"An improper basis..." Damn straight!

"The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without a reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples."

That's right, bitches, we are far from inferior!

"The evidence shows that, by every available metric, opposite-sex couples are not better than their same-sex counterparts; instead, as partners, parents and citizens, opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples are equal."

Did you hear that, Meg Whitman, E-Q-U-A-L!

Thank you, Judge Walker. Of course, this ruling will be appealed and most likely Prop 8 will find itself before the Supreme Court. And maybe that's why I'm cautious, because this is not over by a long shot, as perhaps the saga of Bristol and Levi is not over. But for now, I might not be able to trust elation, however I will allow myself to bask...just a bit.