Howl of the KweerWolf

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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Falwell in the After Life: A Fantasy

News item from the Associated Press:

"LYNCHBURG, Virginia (AP) -- A month after battling pneumonia, the Rev. Jerry Falwell was hospitalized again Tuesday for an undisclosed medical problem, his ministry said."

Subsequent reports about Falwell's health claim he suffered "respiratory arrest" and is in critical condition.

Now I am definitely no fan of Jerry Falwell, but I don't wish him ill. Nor do I join in the chorus of "Burn in hell, Jerry!" coming from the left.

But I have to wonder if, in that moment when he gasped and clutched his chest, not knowing if this was "his time" to meet his maker, Jerry had one of those near-death experiences. People who claim to have had NDE's often come back from them very changed, almost as if God has shown them the errors of their ways and sent them back to earth for a second chance.

If I was going to design an NDE for Falwell, it would go something like this:

Jerry steps into the light, knowing full well he has lived a life of exemplary Christian virtue and feels himself move down a long tunnel with a woosh. He senses music and bright lights and sees vague shapes moving around as he draws nearer. Surely that must be Jesus, Jerry thinks to himself, and look, He's brought an entire welcoming committee!

Arriving with a thump, Jerry moves through the mists toward the source of the music. "'S'up, Jer! C'mon inside. We've been waiting for you," says a voice. Jerry turns toward the source and catches sight of a magnificent white wingspan that assures him he's being greeted by an angel. And what an angel! Tall, blond, muscular, a glint of something on his earlobe that catches and reflects the light a bit like a diamond stud earring. It's only as the angel opens the door and pats Jerry paternally on his derrier as he passes that it occurs to Jerry that he's never seen depictions of angels wearing leather harnesses before.

Once inside, music assaults Jerry's ears. It sounds vaguely like disco music and the bodies are gyrating on the dance floor, singing loudly along with the chorus: "Macho, macho God ... He's gotta be a macho God ..." Why, these people must be homo-seck-shuls! Jerry thinks to himself. God must be showing me what kind of torment these twisted souls are doomed to because they failed to heed my calls to repent.

At that moment Jerry feels a breeze and he's grasped in the arms of an angel who picks him up and begins to fly upward. "Yo, Jer. God's been waiting for you," the angel whispers in his ear. The angel holds Jerry tight and he can feel the angel's leather harness press against his back while another hard shape presses against his backside. His angelic host deposits Jerry at the end of a long, dimly lit corridor and points to the far end where another angel stands at attention outside a closed door. As Jerry walks down the corridor his gaze shifts back and forth to the rooms along the hall. Some of them are open and he glimpses all sorts of acts he used to describe as perversions. Even worse are the carnal sounds coming from behind the closed doors. He shields his eyes from the sights and hurries down the hall toward the angel. As he approaches, the angel reaches to open the door at the end of the hall and tell him, "God's been waiting to meet you." Then he hands Jerry a large jar of Vasoline and adds, "Here ... you'll need this" as the door swings open ...

Back in this world, Jerry awakes with a scream. It was a dream! Heaven's not a gay bath house! Jerry thinks to himself.

As doctors and nurses rush to Jerry's bedside, he tells them to bring him a phone. "I've got a Christian media empire to run," he says. "And I'm sure President Bush will want to know I'm OK," he says.

Bewildered looks cross the faces of the doctors and nurses. Finally one summons the courage to say: "Rev. Falwell, you've been out a long time. Bush isn't president any more. It's President Clinton now."

"Clinton! Hillary became president in 2008?!?!?!"

"Well ... yes, sir, she did. And again in 2012. But this is 2016 and Chelsea's president now."

An alarm sounds from the monitoring equipment at Jerry's bedside. The line tracing his heart rate goes ominously flat.


It's not too early to start a 'Dump Hillary' movement

Every one of the Sunday morning news talk shows devotes at least a few minutes of their broadcasts to speculating on the front-runners for the 2008 presidential race.

Inevitably, when it comes to leaders of the Democratic pack, the name Hillary Clinton comes up time and time again. It seems apparent that the media want to proclaim Hillary an unstoppable juggernaut on her way to coronation as the Democratic pick to head the 2008 ticket. Meanwhile the right wing is slavering and drooling at the prospect of campagining against another Clinton.

Forget for a moment that I used to adore Bill Clinton. Forget also that I came to despise him as a shameful opportunist who would say anything to maintain his power and not hesitate to jetison those he no longer needed once he retained his power. And forget, too, that I lost all respect for Bill when it was revealed he advised failed presidential candidate John Kerry to speak out in favor of anti-gay marriage amendments to pick up support in the Red states.

Even in those moments when I manage to forget that Hillary is married to Bill, Hillary still makes my skin crawl.

It's not so much that a Clinton on the campaign trail would serve as a lightning rod for conservatives who were part of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" (Hillary's words, not mine) against Bill. It's more a question of Hillary playing footsie with the radical right that has me concerned.

Consider that last month Hillary spoke out for finding "common ground" with the anti-abortion folks.

Then just this past weekend The Times of London wrote that Hillary was firing the opening shots in a "morality war" against violent video games. Granted, it's hard to wave the banner of the first amendment when you find yourself defending games such as Grand Theft Auto where players earn points by picking up prostitutes, having sex with them and then blowing them away. But the whole episode smacks of the Parents Resource Council's attempt to regulate music a decade ago. All that crusade managed was to put labels on CDs with violent or sexually explicit lyrics ... thus making it easier for teens to pick out music their parents and the government didn't want them to hear.

What's particularly worrisome over the video game issue is not the idea of censorship, but the "strange bedfellows" Hillary as chosen to rub elbows with. From the Times article:

"Clinton, who is expected to seek the Democrats’ presidential nomination in 2008, has teamed up with two archconservative Republican senators, Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback."


Associating with Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum (remember when he compared gays to those who engaged in man-dog sex?) and Kansas' Sam Brownshirt - oops! I mean BrownBACK! - can only add yet another layer of sleaze to the Clinton name.

I posted my concerns about Hillary's pandering to the right wing on the Democratic Underground website the other day and a poster told me not to worry, that Hillary was just dodging to the right to pick up votes and would move back to the left once she's safely in the White House.

Somehow that scares me even more. Call me a purist, but I'd rather have a candidate who tells me where he or she stands than one who will play one side while slyly winking to the other.

It all reminds me of something Harry Truman is reported to have said: "Given the choice, voters will pick a real Republican over a fake one every time."

With her dash to the right, Hillary is giving her best imitation of a fake Republican.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Another school shooting: Let the post mortem begin

Almost as soon as the news of the Minnesota school shooting that left 10 people dead - including the 17-year-old alleged gunman - the search was on to find a reason for the worst school shooting since the 1999 incident at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

It didn't take long for the media to discover that Jeff Weise, the troubled Native American teen who killed his grandfather and his grandfather's companion before taking three guns to the school and proceeding to kill five classmates, a teacher and a security guard before turning the gun on himself. Weise, it was reported, had a history of posting messages on a neo-Nazi message board.

On the Libertarian National Socialist Green party message board, Weise vented frustration about inter-racial dating and railed against the rap/"gansta"/African-American culture. "Where I live less than 1% of all the people on the Reservation can speak their own language, and among the youth wanting to be black has run ramped. We have kids my age killing each other over things as simple as a fight, and it's because of the rap influence. Wannabe-gangsters everywhere, I can't go 5 feet without hearing someone blasting some rap song over their speakers," according to one of his postings reported in The Guardian.

So there it is. The kid was a neo-Nazi. That explains it all. Case closed.

Unfortunately, for many who seek to understand what motivates a teenager to walk into a school and open fire on classmates and teachers, the search for a reason stops there. It gives them something tangible to blame.

Few groups are as universally reviled as the Nazis and their modern counterparts who get on the internet to give lip service - or is it 'keyboard service'? - to Hitler and his "final solution." If we can blame some neo-Nazi hate group, we can absolve ourselves of blame. No one has to consider the sense of alienation many high school students feel. No one has to question the culture of guns and violence so prevalent in the U.S. No one will feel the need to look at the despair on reservations where Native Americans were sent to live after their near-genocide at the hands of the American government. No one has to figure poverty or a broken home into the equation.

We don't have to confront any of those issues now that we can blame it on the neo-Nazis. And because we can blame the neo-Nazis, we don't have to look at ourselves, because such fringe groups are far, far removed from "people like us."

And, hey, if the neo-Nazi label doesn't hold up, we can find some other source to blame. Weise signed his message board posts "Todesengel," which means "angel of death." If we can't blame that particular reference on the Nazis (Josef Mengele, the Nazi physician at Auschwitz, was given that nickname for his sadistic medical "experiments" on Jewish concentration camp inmates) then we can blame rock music. The thrash metal band, Slayer, recorded a song titled "Angel of Death."

As much as we want some sort of instant answer for why school shootings happen, there often isn't any way to explain such tragedies. Rushing to such quick post mortems of incidents like Columbine and now the shootings at Red Lake may make us sleep better at night knowing that the shooters were social outcasts or neo-Nazis, and thus totally unlike anyone in our own little worlds. But there is a danger in jumping to such quick explanations.

Back in 1988, not long after I had moved to Kansas City, the capture of Bob Berdella, the notorious serial killer who tortured and killed young men at his home only about a dozen blocks from where I was living at the time, broke in the national news. He was caught when one of his victims escaped wearing nothing but bruises and a dog collar. The young man told a horrendous tale of torture and rape. Polaroid photos found at the scene and a "torture log" kept by Berdella corroborated the story.

As Kansas City struggled to come to terms with something so macabre happening in its midst, other items found by police at Berdella's home became the focus of speculation. A business card of Berdella's featuring a dragon became a link to Satanism and black magic. The fact that few remains of his victims were uncovered when Berdella's backyard was dug up led to speculation that he cannibalized them or dismembered the corpses and fed them to his dogs. The sadistic element of the murders fueled rumors of a ritualistic cult prowling the city.

None of the speculations were true. But they served one very important purpose: they placed the responsibility for such acts as far away from "normal" society as possible. As long as the killer is a fiendish Satanic cannibal, we share nothing in common with him. As long as the kid who walks into a school and opens fires is a neo-Nazi, we share nothing in common with him either. The end result of such blame-placing is that society is safe. It's things beyond the fringe of acceptable, normal society that lead to serial killers who torture their victims and high school students who methodically shoot their classmates.

Perhaps it's human nature to want to distance ourselves from acts of cruelty and savagery. We don't want to stare into a killer's eyes and see our own reflection staring back at us. It's comforting to believe that a thick, high wall separates us from the Bob Berdellas and the Jeff Weises of the world.

But if we don't learn to see the common threads that connect even the most inhumane to humankind we will forever be asking "How could this happen?" the next time there's a school shooting. And the next. And the next. And the next.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Deciphering the right wing

Like an epiphanous light bulb that goes on above a cartoon character's head when he gets an idea, a thought occurred to me while watching all the blather from Republican lawmakers and the right-wing propaganda machine over the right-to-die case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who has spent the last 15 years in a persistent vegetative state.

The right wing likes to talk about the sanctity of marriage and how it needs to be defended against all those gays and lesbians who want to sully "marriage" by insisting they have the same rights to a 50-some hour Las Vegas wedding as Britany Spears. Just mention same-sex marriage and watch the Republicans start waving their "Sanctity of Marriage" banners.

But where are those banners in the Schiavo case? Even going back to centuries-old English common law, a spouse should have the final say in deciding issues for an incapacitated partner. The idea behind that is simple: No one chooses his or her own family, but a spouse is chosen. That special relationship gives a husband or wife greater authority in the eyes of the law to make decisions on behalf of the other spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated.

So if the Republicans and the right-wing believe so much in the sanctity of marriage, why override the decision of Michael Schiavo to remove his wife from her feeding tubes after a long and fruitless wait of 15 years? Why disregard centuries of legal precedents that recognize a spouse's right to speak for his or her partner's wishes?

"Because it's not about the Sanctity of Marriage ... it's about the Sanctity of LIFE!" answers the right wing blowhards.

Ah ... so Life trumps Marriage in the right-wing lexicon.

But then it begs the question: If Life is so sacred to the right wing, what makes the quasi-"life" of one woman so much more sacred than the American lives lost in Iraq. (Notice how I specified "American" lives lost. The right wing shows a marked preference for not considering - or evening acknowledging - the Iraqi civilians lost in the past two years.) Aren't those lives as sacred as Terri Schiavo's?

At this point the right-wingers roll their eyes and sigh with exasperation. That's when it occurs to me: For the right wing, the Sanctity of Life trumps the Sanctity of Marriage every time. But when pushed into a corner and confronted with their hypocrisy, Republicans will pull out the one card that trumps all the others - protecting the Sanctity of Sanctimony.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Unnatural alliances: Some black clergy are too eager to sell their birthright to the GOP

"If the KKK opposes gay marriage then I'd ride with them."
-- the Rev. Gregory Daniels, Chicago minister

Take a good look at that quote. It's kind of shocking to think of a member with the clergy being so full of hate over the issue of gay marriage that he'd side with a group like the Ku Klux Klan, with it's history of racial hatred and lynching blacks all the way through the first half of the 20th century.

For an even great shock, consider this: the Rev. Daniels is a black minister.

Daniels and a growing number of black clergy members are becoming puppets of the extreme right as Republicans and right-wing fundamentalists strive to drive a wedge between two traditionally Democratic groups - blacks and gays. We saw it happen as the results of the 2004 election rolled in and we see it continuing to happen. Take, for instance, the recent kick-off for "Black Contract With America on Moral Values" in Los Angeles. The event attracted about 100 black ministers, but they were mostly window dressing for the event. It was the white Lou Sheldon, of the anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition, who did all the talking.

While it's true that politics does make for strange bedfellows, the courtship between Republicans (along with radical religious fundamentalists) and black ministers is an unlikely pairing. Perhaps the black clergy have poor memories and don't recall it was under the Democrats that the greatest strides in civil rights were made - over the objections of the Republicans. Or maybe the black clergy are truly models of Christian forgiveness in overlooking the past of right-wing leaders like the Rev. Jerry Falwell who began his career in the pulpit preaching the gospel of segregation. (To his credit, Falwell has since recanted his segregationist past and said he "misunderstood" God's will on the issue. That doesn't speak highly of his current rants about gays and lesbians if he's only batting .500 when it comes to deciphering God's will.)

I hate to inject a note of cynicism into the debate, but the swiftness with which some black clergy members went toadying up to the Republican puppetmasters might also have something to do with wanting to carve out a slice of BushCo's "faith-based initiative" pie for themselves.

I truly understand how some blacks resent the struggle for gay rights being called "civil rights." Gays were never sold as property or lived in slavery (though some could be referred to as slaves to fashion trends). Gays were never denied the right to vote. There were never any separate "gay" and "straight" public drinking fountains. For the most part, the average gay has more access to education and health care and makes more money than the average black person. Viewed superficially, it's little wonder that many blacks resent gays wrapping their struggle in the banner of civil rights.

The only thing that comes close to being as shameful as the era of slavery in America's history is the genocide of Native Americans. Even on the world stage such tragedies as the Holocaust, Stalin's gulags, Pol Pot's Cambodian killing fields and the "ethnic cleansing" that swept Serbia, Rwanda and, now, the Sudan, were of relatively short duration compared to the years of slavery that affected entire generations of blacks. So pervasive are the effects of slavery that we continue to be affected by the reverberations of those times yet today. But civil rights was never meant to be decided on the basis of a "my peoples' suffering trumps your's" basis.

If gays have been insensitive in using the phrase "civil rights" to describe their struggle, so too have blacks been less than understanding of the issues that should unite their search for equality with gays. Up until 50 years ago, miscengenation laws prevented blacks from marrying anyone of a different race. Gays and lesbians today can't legally marry. Prior to the passage of civil rights laws, blacks could be denied employment on the basis of their race. With the exception of a few large cities and a small number of states, gays can legally be fired or denied employment because of their sexual orientation. It was only by an executive order by President Harry Truman in 1948 that blacks were integrated into the military. Today, gays and lesbians can serve in the military - but only if they agree to hide a basic part of their identity.

Instead of seeing the common thread of discrimination that units the struggle for all civil rights, the black ministers who have aligned themselves with the Republican right have bought into the fear-mongering and religious-base bigotry that only a few decades ago was directed against them.

I remember growing up during the civil rights movement. My grandfather, who I learned much later had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan in his younger days, would rant and rave about those "uppity" blacks (though "blacks" was not the word he used; the least inflammatory to ever got was using the word "colored") and cheer the news clips showing cops turning fire hoses on demonstrators or setting police dogs on them. He could back up his beliefs about the inferiority of blacks with his Bible, too. According to my grandfather, blacks were the descendents of Noah's youngest son, Ham, who in Genesis 9, is cursed by Noah: "The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers." Ham, he explained, was the progenitor of the black race and thus, according to the Bible, was meant to live in slavery.

With the exception of a few hardcore racists, no one believes that today. But it was "common knowledge" at one time.

Locally, the issue of gays and blacks is being brought home by the April 5 vote in Kansas on an amendment banning same-sex marriage. Yesterday's Kansas City Star carried an article headlined Gay-marriage amendment campaigns go into action that mentioned a Memphis, Tenn.-base group called the Coalition of African-American Pastors is planning a rally in Kansas City, Kan., on the Sunday prior to the election. The website for CAAP features photos of George Bush and Bill Frist and is apparently so new that a number of its links provide an "under construction" message.

So Kansas City will come face-to-face with black clergy members acting as puppets for right-wing Republicans and the radical religious fringe.

No doubt they will step up to the microphone and tell how the Bible condemns homosexuality. The irony will be lost on them how the same book was used 150 years ago to justify keeping their ancestors in chains. If they realize their new-found friends on the right used the same book 50 years ago to justify segregation and "Jim Crow" laws in the south, they won't mention it.

But as long as they are turning to the Old Testament for advice, perhaps they should take a fresh look at the story of Esau and Jacob and how Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a single meal.

Perhaps it's not too late for them to realize that selling one's birthright seldom has a happy ending.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Ongoing Saga of Trials of My Online Gay Life Part 1: "To C2C or Not to C2C"

For the uninitiated, "c2c" (or "cam2cam") is chatroom jargon for chatting with someone on the internet with a web camera linked to a similar camera at the other end. Both parties can "talk" to each other via the keyboard (or by microphones connected to speakers for those who want to keep their hands free) while they watch each other on camera.

Picture one of those business teleconferences in which a group of executives gather round a conference table in, for instance, New York, while they talk with their counterparts in Hong Kong about scheduled delivery of widgets.

Oh! But since this is about gay life online, take away the fancy offices, the discussion of widgets and the business suits. In fact, take away any clothes, for that matter.

I doesn't seem to matter what technology you can name; sooner or later mankind will learn how to kill with it or how to use it in the pursuit of sexual gratification. There's a direct line between Alexander Graham Bell uttering "Watson! Come here! I need you!" into the rudimentary mouthpiece of his invention and the sweaty, anonymous voice that rasps, "Hey, baby ... I got the phone in my left hand ... if you can guess what's in my right hand I'll give you a piece of the action." (Some poor pervert had the misfortune to use that line on a big ol' dyke friend of mine once. She responded with, "Listen, schmuck ... if it only takes one hand to hold it, I'm not interested," and slammed the phone down. I can imagine the unnamed object in the perv's right hand rapidly withering after that!)

But back to the subject (ahem!) at hand: web cams. Sure, it was a great idea for businesses to save on all those plane tickets back and forth to Hong Kong. But as the technology became more common and the price dropped, soon the average computer user found he could engage in face-to-face chats with guys on the other side of the globe. Except that the idea of "face-to-face" is probably about three feet too high for the body parts digitally bouncing around cyber space.

One of my favorite gay chatrooms recently added a feature the allowed web cam users to "broadcast" their cams in the chatroom. Now, instead of the rather sedate chat punctuated by the occasional "lonely guy in Fresno looking for real time action with hot top" postings, we have guys typing things like "you gonna show for us, hotstud4daddy?" and "stroke it, SanFranCuteGuy!" I hate to get nostalgic over something that was only two weeks ago, but I miss the old "pvts" (or private messages) I'd get requesting my stats or inquiring if I was a top or bottom. Now I'm more likely to get a message from some guy in Kuala Lumpur or Vladivostok who can barely speak English but knows what "c2c?" means.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I do own a web cam. And in even fuller disclosure, I should confess that when I first got my cam last year it was exciting (in a naughty sort of way) to clumsily type one-handed messages back and forth to some distant guy while the web cam broadcast its own version of an extremely low budget porn movie. That excitement lasted about a week and a half. Coincidently, that's exactly how long it took me to learn the following three things:
  • Despite the technology, "c2c" is the same basic activity lonely guys have engaged in since the dawn of time;
  • I absolutely hate guys who think they are web cam versions of Steven Spielberg and type instructions like "give me a close up," "move the cam to the right," and "focus!" while I'm trying to ... well, focus on my own performance, and;
  • When you come to the realization that a well-aimed gob of spit provides a good excuse to turn off your cam and go back to playing computer solitaire (just as a well-timed moan and heavy breathing did for c2c's predecessor - phone sex), it means you're pretty damned bored with the whole experience.

Call me jaded, but I am so over the whole web cam thing.

Maybe not the whole cam thing. I've discovered something I like to do even more with the cam: have actual face-to-face chats with people. There's something a little more deeply rewarding about watching someone react to a joke or a description of your day than there is in watching a stranger react by even more frantically waving his weenie around to descriptions of things you would do in bed with him that would require being double-jointed and being trained as a professional acrobat (despite being neither double-jointed or having received any acrobatic training) if you only weren't on the other side of the country.

Now whenever I get on of those "c2c?" messages, my response is a quick "sorry, no." About the only time my web cam gets turned on these days is when I talk with a very special Finnish guy (and who I think I be mentioned here more frequently in weeks and months to come). There's something about watching his lips part into a broad smile as he reads something funny in a message I've sent him that's erotic in a very special way. And there's something about watching his eyes sparkle when I come up with yet another way of letting him know how special he is that makes the moment worth so much more than an entire chatroom full of waving weenies.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Slightly Less Passionate Passion of the Mel

Mel Gibson is re-releasing his film, "The Passion of the Christ." But this time the Passion will be less, well, "passionate." Gibson is triming five minutes of the most extreme violence from the film to make it more palatable to audiences who objected to the grusome depiction of the last 12 hours of Jesus' life on earth.

The day after the Academy Awards (in which "The Passion" was snubbed in all the major categories and nominated in only a few of the minor categories) Gibson was on ABC's "Good Morning America" announcing that his truncated film was being released and emphatically denying that his film was too violent.

As someone who saw "The Passion" in it's original form, I have to disagree with Mel. The film is almost unrelentingly grim in it's depiction of Christ's suffering. Did the historical Jesus suffer? Of course. Flogging and crucificion are horrible ways to die. Gibson said of the original version that it would serve as a reminder for Christians of Christ's suffering and what it really meant for him to die as atonement for mankind.

That makes for fine sentiment and factions of Christians bought into it hook, line and sinker. But viewed in the context of Gibson's other films, I think it says more about Mel's passions than the passion of Christ.

Remember the "Lethal Weapon" movie in which Gibson's charater is strung up, doused with water and then hit with an electric cattle prod? How about "Braveheart" where Gibson's character is tied to the rack, strung up and finally drawn and quartered? And who could forget the graphic cannon ball-decapitation scene in "The Patriot"?

Mel, it seems, has a penchant for depicting the most sadistic of scenes in his films. In "The Passion" he finally found a movie where he could indulge his interest in sadomasochism and remain free of criticism. And if, as some critics charged, "The Passion" was nothing but an epic "snuff" movie, Gibson could wrap himself in the Bible and his ultra-conservative version of Catholicism and accuse his critics of an anti-Christian bias.

"The Passion" also gave Gibson a free pass to express his homophobia. The mincing, effeminate high priest Calephas is Mel's idea of a gay person - and the androgynous character of Satan is another figure in the movie who can (and has been) read as gay by audiences. So in Gibson's universe, gays are either more flamboyant than a busload of drag queens or as evil as Satan. I guess not enough people picked up on Mel's homophobia in "Braveheart" in which the king pushed the prince's male lover to his death from a high castle window. So he chose to make his feelings about gays even more explicit in "The Passion."

But beyond the violence and the homophobia in "The Passion" was something that only occurred to me a few days later as my reaction to the gut-wrenching violence began to subside. In focusing almost exclusively on Christ's death, Gibson left out the essence of Christianity: Christ's teachings. Oh sure there are a few flashback scenes to his ministry ... but these scenes amount to less than the five minutes Gibson cut from his new version.

There's a fascinating book I read several months ago by Karen Armstrong, a former nun who has written on various theological subjects. The book is called The Battle for God and takes a look at the history of fundamentalist movements within the three monotheistic religions. Early on in the book, Armstrong writes that religions have components of logos (the rational teachings) and mythos (the non-rational, mythic beliefs). In Christianity, logos are the teachings of Jesus, perhaps best illustrated by the sermon on the mount and the parables he taught. Then there is the mythos of Christianity: the virgin birth, the miracles, the resurrection.

The problem with mythos is without logos to act as a counter-balance it presents a distorted view of Christianity where mankind learns that the magical, mystical, and literal deus ex machina play a bigger role in faith than logical thought and reflection. This, then, is the major flaw with Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" in whichever version viewers see it.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Kudos to Kay: She "Dunn" right!

A little over two weeks ago I used this space to excoriate Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Kay Barnes for courting the gay vote, but failing to speak out at the Feb. 11 Mayor's Prayer Breakfast when the keynote speaker used the event as a bully pulpit to push an extremist right-wing agenda. Barnes remained silent while local businessman William H. Dunn Sr. used the event as a platform to denounce pornography, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy and illegitimate children, same-sex marriages, "activist judges," the "far-left media," partial-birth abortion and the extremist right-wing's usual litany of gripes.

By her silence, Kay was complicit with Dunn's hate-mongering espoused. It appeared Barnes was going the way of other moderate and progressive politicians who chose what is expedient over what it right. From that perspective, Barnes was the embodiment of the line from W.B. Yeats' "The Second Coming": "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

Or so it seemed.

On the front page of today's Metropolitan section of The Kansas City Star there was a story headlined Prayer breakfast loses a mayor. The article recounted how Barnes raised objections to Dunn's speech and asked the organizing committee to change its bylaws. When the committee balked, Barnes told them she wouldn't be back next year.

According to the article: "I feel I need to express my personal dismay with the tone and content of the recent keynote address," Barnes wrote this week to members of the breakfast committee. "I will not participate in nor attend next year's event."

I won't waste time going into Dunn's response. The comments of an unrepentant bigot aren't worth the effort. Nor will I waste space on the disingenuous comments by one of the organizers of the supposedly non-political, non-denominational event who said changing the bylaws would compromise the integrity of the 44-year-old tradition - but who went on to defend a highly political speech.

Instead I just want to focus on Kay and what a rarity it is to find a politician with the courage of her convictions.

Kudos to you, Kay. You "Dunn" right by us!